Marie (1985)

Synopsis:

After graduating from college, single-mom Marie Ragghianti (Sissy Spacek, Carrie) lands a job as an officer for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Later, Ragghianti is appointed to the position of chairwoman of the parole board and quickly discovers a culture of corruption in the department.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“If they think I’m some kind of cupcake, they’ve got another thing coming.”

Sometimes all a movie needs is a good script and everything else falls into place. Other times an actor’s performance is good enough to hold everything together. This fact-based political drama is anchored by the superb work of thespian extraordinaire Sissy Spacek. Because Spacek is so good, Marie ends up being better than it deserves to be.

Based on a non-fiction book by biographer and journalist Peter Maas (Serpico), Marie is the true story of Marie Ragghianti, who in 1977 blew the whistle on then Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton’s pardon bribery scheme. The film chronicles both Ragghianti’s personal struggles and battles against Blanton’s political machine.

Directed by Roger Donaldson (The Bounty and Thirteen Days), Marie is, unfortunately, a tad unfocused. In my opinion, the film’s main problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a rags-to-riches melodrama or a taut conspiracy thriller. The film also tries to say something about sexism in politics, but that angle is left mostly unexplored.

John Briley’s (Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi) screenplay could have benefited from a few more re-writes, but luckily, Spacek throws the film over her shoulders and carries it to the finish line. You sense that Spacek understands that it’s up to her to make it all work, and comes fully prepared to hit a much-needed home run.

While it’s true that Spacek saves this movie from itself, I don’t want to give the impression that there aren’t any other good performances in the film. Jeff Daniels (Terms of Endearment) and pre-stardom Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) are wonderfully dastardly as a couple of corrupt government officials.

This is the first movie of lawyer-turned-politician-turned-actor Fred Thompson (The Hunt for Red October), who had been Ragghianti’s attorney in a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee. Thompson was originally hired as an advisor, but director Donaldson asked him if he would consider playing himself in the movie and, as they say, the rest is history. Also with Keith Szarabajka (A Perfect World) as Spacek’s confidant.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Despite its interesting storyline and the presence of then popular star Sissy Spacek, Marie was a box-office flop. Perhaps the movie’s innocuous title had something to do with it, I don’t know. Anyhow, I would recommend Marie to viewers who enjoy “David-versus-Goliath” stories — think Norma Rae (1979) meets Brubaker (1980). Needless to say, a must-see movie for Sissy’s fans. Color, 111 minutes, Rated R.

16 responses to “Marie (1985)

  1. Sissy Spacek has always been a most naturally gifted actress. Particularly in all her most dramatic films like Missing and In The Bedroom. Thanks, Eric, for your review.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t remember ever hearing about this one, and maybe it’s because of the title: like you said, maybe it’s the reason it flopped, and perhaps it’s the reason I steered clear (and maybe I skipped ‘Galaxina’ for this same reason…but it worked for ‘Erin Brockovich’, so who knows). At least the poster gives it somewhat of a mystery-thriller feel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The title can definitely be a problem. The Shawshank Redemption is probably the most famous case of a title hurting a movie. Miss Sloane is another one that bombed, yet it is a surprisingly gritty, well-crafted political thriller. I kinda blamed the title. A lazy title didn’t hurt Michael Clayton (?), though. Erin Brockovich is another exception to the rule — maybe Julia Roberts’s push-up bras helped. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m starting to agree with you all about the title. Come on, people, something a LITTLE more engaging, right?! I didn’t see this either and I also am a Sissy fan. Among actors with “accents” from Southern states that I adore, including Sissy, is Holly Hunter and, of course, the great Tommy Lee Jones.
    I love your line: “Spacek throws the film over her shoulders and carries it to the finish line.”
    Also, Fred Thompson was one of the most natural actors, wasn’t he? For someone out of politics, that is, to go into acting and be so believable. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. PS: I also had an out of body experience just now. He’s been gone since 2000?! But when was Misery? Then I looked up Misery–from 1990–and I almost vomited my soul out of my mouth. I mean, I knew it was a while back, but… 1990??!!! What happened to the time, and what, exactly, have I done with my life?! lol !!

    Liked by 2 people

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