by Paula Farmer
I Dreamed of Africa fails on so many levels that it’s hard to even give it credit for the one area in which it excels. With a backdrop of the wilds of Kenya – with its lush landscapes and magnificent creatures – how could this film help but deliver a picturesque presentation? Unfortunately, director Hugh Hudson is not attempting to create a visual romance, but rather to tell the real-life story of its narrator, Kuki Gallmann.
The story begins at an unspecified time in Italy when Gallmann, played by Kim Basinger, is a widow and mother. After being in a near-fatal car accident, she falls in love with a co-survivor, decides to throw caution to the wind and follow her heart and new husband to Africa, where over many years she endures personal loss and hardships. Though many potentially interesting plots and subplots are alluded to throughout the film, none are developed or realized, and characters and situations introduced visually are never acknowledged verbally.
Time-period shifts are poorly executed, leaving one to feel that the action takes place in the ‘90s, when in fact it’s set in the ‘60s. Although the use of voice-over could be the saving grace moving the film from vagueness to clarity, it does nothing to give insight into the characters, time shifts or storyline.
There are even suggestions that the film might explore serious issues that plague Africa, such as poaching. Instead, the audience, like Basinger, wanders aimlessly through inept dialogue, sloppy editing and bad directing. To make matters worse, the central characters, who are white, are served by black Africans in an unwarranted throwback to a Hollywood of a bygone era.
This movie, which is Basinger’s first since garnering a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, is no doubt supposed to catapult her out of glamorous, bimbo roles and into middle-aged, no makeup, take-me-seriously parts. But because it’s not much more than an overdramatized Ralph Lauren ad, this vehicle only highlights Basinger’s mediocre acting ability and seemingly minimal talent for selecting scripts and directors.
This may have been someone’s dream of Africa or moviemaking, but it’s certainly no moviegoer’s dream of two hours well spent.
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