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A Roll in the Hay

Karen Ogle

Farmer's Brow: Dennis Hopper furrows his forehead in Bruno Barreto's sex-positive drama "Carried Away."

A troubled teacher-farmer gets 'Carried Away' by a young woman's desire in his own barn

By Richard von Busack

MISCASTING AND LAUGHABLE SYMBOLISM make folly out of Carried Away, an adaptation of Jim Harrison's novel Farmer. Dennis Hopper, perhaps the most flamboyant actor in America, is somewhat calmed down in the lead role of an intimidated bachelor farmer. Despite a distracting stage limp, Hopper almost carries the part off. He plays Joseph Svenden, a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse somewhere in a bleak corner of Flyover Country, as a little man losing what little he has. His mother (Julie Harris) is in the last stages of terminal cancer. A brighter spot in his life is his comforting if uninspiring sleep-over friendship with his fellow teacher Rosalie (Amy Irving, wife of director Bruno Barreto).

Joseph's torpor is ended by the arrival of Catherine (Amy Locane), an unstable 17-year-old who seduces him in his very own hay loft. Through these literal rolls in the hay, Joseph rediscovers his lyrical side, but, naturally, trouble is waiting. Catherine's father (Gary Busey) has guns and likes to talk about shooting coyotes ("They're just dogs--anything they can't eat or fuck, they piss on") as if smelling the chicken feathers on Joseph's breath. In the unintentional comic highlight, the situation is exposed when Rosalie accidentally opens a condolence card for the death of Joseph's mother addressed to him from his friend in the barn: "I know I could make you feel better. XOXO. PS: Now can we do it in the house?"

Barreto made the Brazilian sex comedies Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands and Gabriela, but his return to sex-positive material is uneasy and unlikely, considering a story that superimposes Latin morals on Lutheran terrain. Hal Holbrook's hammy character delivers the director's message: "Why can't people just make love?"--without all the hubbub, in other words. This is a question that has perplexed the great minds of history, or at least male minds; you don't especially have to be prudish to find the movie's point of view hopelessly silly or the ending (it turns out all for the best) to be an insult to the intelligence.

Carried Away (R; 104 min.), directed by Bruno Barreto, written by Ed Jones and Dale Herd, based on the novel Farmer by Jim Harrison, photographed by Declan Quinn and starring Dennis Hopper, Amy Irving and Gary Busey.

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From the September 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro

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