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Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley, Denise Crosby, Dean Butler. Gwen Welles, Jeffrey Tambor Helen Shaver , Donna Deitch    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 19.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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DESERT HEARTS: 2-DISC COLLECTOR'S EDITION + When Night Is Falling + If These Walls Could Talk 2
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When college professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) arrives in Reno in 1959 to get a quickie divorce, the last thing on her mind is romance. A prim intellectual, crippled by a sterile marriage ("We're a professional couple") and hiding behind her education, she moves into a ranch belonging to Frances Parker (Audra Lindley) and tries to keep to herself. But Parker's beautiful, sassy tomboy of a stepdaughter proves to be quite a distraction, and a love affair slowly blossoms. Cay (Patricia Charbonneau) refuses to be bound by convention or by expectations of how a nice girl should behave, and her devil-may-care attitude both attracts and terrifies the nervous professor.

Shaver is terrific as Vivian, and the slow thawing of her character is beautifully paced--you can feel the tension break when she finally lets down her guard. Another strong performance comes from Audra Lindley as Frances. She's a tough old bird with a drinking problem, but Lindley keeps the character from descending into stereotype, and she gives full rein to the tragic side of this lonely woman, especially as she struggles with her reaction to the developing relationship between Cay and Vivian.

There are scenes in Desert Hearts that would be painfully clichéd if they appeared in a heterosexual romance, and even here they only just escape that fate--relying a little too much on significant glances and lines that just don't sound like real conversation. Nevertheless, first-time director Deitch breathes new life into a standard straight-arrow-meets-free-spirit plot, and steadfastly refuses to turn this love story into an "issues movie." Add to that a strong feel for the period and a soundtrack filled with the likes of Patsy Cline and Gene Vincent, and the result is a warm, well-acted film that packs a real emotional punch. --Simon Leake

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars can't miss Feb. 2 2004
By A Customer
This is a wonderful movie of two gorgeous women who make love and one drops her water onto the other while they're at it. I watch that part over and over. And I'm a girl.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Liked Jane Rule's Novel MUCH Better, But . . . June 17 2004
By A Customer
This film contains what may well be the most powerful & well-done love scene I have ever seen on film. If only everyone's "first time" with his or her lover could be this beautiful! Ah, well. Actors can rehearse, as Shaver & Charbonneau did, according to director Dietch. But ordinary real-life lovers have no such luxury . . .
My main problem with the film was its portrayal of Frances Packer. Don't get me wrong--Audra Lindley's performance is terrific (& such a pleasant surprise after only having seen her in __Three's Company__!). But Dietch & Cooper made Mrs. Packer out to be a venomously lonely & alcoholic homophobe. Rule's portrayal of her in the novel is much more sympathetic & broad-minded.
I believe at least one other reviewer made similar objections, but I just had to put my 2 cents in.
In the end, I applaud Ms. Dietch & everyone involved in Desert Hearts for working so hard to bring this groundbreaking film into being!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Goodness July 14 2013
By Beth
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Desert Hearts the movie is a close version of the book with some slight variation. The movie is as tasty as the book!
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4.0 out of 5 stars This One Started It All.. Jan. 21 2004
Before Ellen, kd lang, and Chastity Bono came out, there was this Lesbian genre classic, and classily done, I might add.
The storyline was unique to movies at the time it was filmed, but the story is not. Anyone who has been in love with a supposed "straight" person, knows how real this movie can seem. The flirtation, the backing away, the come-hither looks, and finally the conquest all will bring back good (and painful) memories. In my opinion, the lesbian love scene between the two female leads is still the best yet on film - it sizzles without being too graphic.
I'm giving it only 4 stars because the acting is a little stilted at times (mostly from the star Patricia Charbonneau and her former on-screen love interest Dean Butler). If you can overlook that, and see the movie for what it was (lesbian/gay history) and what it is today (a great love story), you will enjoy it. The clothes, music, sets, (and the hair-dos!) are great and correct for the period.
Sit back, enjoy, and make sure your girlfriend is watching with you!
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5.0 out of 5 stars an upbeat classic Nov. 29 2003
By A Customer
quite different from the fine novel upon which it is based, and yet good in its own right. sweet, witty, old fashioned. the acting is very fine, especially helen shaver, and the electricity between she and patricia charbonneau is amazing. this small film showcases one of the best uses of background music in any movie i've ever seen. there are no real bad guys here, either. it's just about the great joy and relief that two people feel when they manage, against great odds, to find each other.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Passionate Oct. 4 2003
By axpress
The storyline and characters are somewhat interesting, though not as interesting as the explosive lesbian love scene near the end of the film!
Both Helen Shaver & Patricia Charbonneau are beautiful, and the kissing between them is enough to make your heart stop! Don't miss it!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as magical as the book Sept. 26 2003
The trouble is, this film is too close to Jane Rule's gorgeous novel to separate itself, yet it cannot hope to convey the magic and subtleties painted by Jane Rule whose characters are so well-defined; whose sense of timing and space is impeccable and who develops the tensions (slight and not-so-slight) between these women by way of their perceptions (of each other and their own situations). It is one of the tenderest love stories I have read and yet it is neither unduly emotional nor sentimental.
The scene by the lake (Chapter 5), for instance, where Evelyn (Vivian in the film) utters that she lives in a desert of the heart, can hardly have the same impact on film where we depend on a visual interpretation of events rather than a disclosure of her thoughts. It is where Evelyn realises she's losing a battle; her morality is about to be jolted. She clings to familiar things, the drive through the storm and so on, in the hope that the problem will go away while knowing that it won't. At the same time Ann (Cay in the film) has an instinct for knowing when not to press herself further while never quite withdrawing. The film does not capture these subtleties.
For all that, it is a beautiful, sensitive film in its own right, spoiled by an ending that might have been better if it followed the book. In almost the last line, far from Vivian (Evelyn) departing forever, she opts to stay "for an indefinite period of time". Until that moment one is on the edge of one's seat and somehow the film's almost certain "goodbye" comes as a cop-out; as if the women might have been infatuated; Vivian frightened of discovering this new aspect of her sexuality but surrendering to a daring experiment rather than being in love as the book conveys and realising at the last instant that goodbye isn't possible at that moment.
The sex scene is inconsequential by the way but tastefully done for those who like such cliches.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still The One June 26 2003
By A Customer
This lovely, bittersweet movie knocked my socks off when I saw it back in the day, and the DVD offered me another opportunity to relive the romance. It's not the most well-made movie -- the fact that it got made at all, considering the costs to the independent film maker, is a miracle. But it is peopled with believable, sympathetic characters and it is, for the most part, beautifully acted. The soundtrack is fabulous, and the CD is long overdue. The cinematography artfully features the haunting southwestern landscape, contrasting it with the period-perfect seediness of 1950's Reno.
Desert Hearts is a lesbian love story, but also a story about the importance of many types of relationships between women: mother and daughter, friend and confidant. I've seen almost all the lesbian flicks that have been produced over the years, and very few of them have this one's staying power. It offers a deeply romantic and heartfelt view of lesbian love in the old-fashioned Hollywood mold, something we rarely see in the movies. The impeccable use of music is heard in the final scene, as Ella Fitzgerald croons "I Wished On The Moon." I can't imagine any person who has every loved or longed for love, whether they're gay, straight or in between, not being moved by the promise, longing and mystery expressed in that last scene.
Desert Hearts has wit, humor, pathos, a fascinating and unusual milieu, compelling leading ladies and delicious secondary roles, great music and scenery, and oh yes, some exceptionally erotic and realistic sex between two beautiful women.
What's not to like?
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