Review: A Woman of Independent Means (1995)

A Woman of Independent Means (1995)

Directed by: Robert Greenwald | 260 minutes | drama | Actors: Sally Field, Ron Silver, Tony Goldwyn, Jack Thompson, Sheila McCarthy, Ann Hearn, Andrea Roth, Andrew Lowery, Brenda Fricker, Charles Durning, Lawrence Monoson, Christianne Mays, Julie Mayfield, Randy Moore, Brooke Hailey, Mark Walters, Cynthia Dorn, Richard Dillard, Jill Parker-Jones, John S. Davies, Christina Stojanovich, Cameron Finley, Trevor Meeks, Emmy Barker, Christopher Fox, Matthew Loehr, Marietta Marich, Rutherford Cravens, Margaret Bowman, Emily Courtney, Gena Sleete, Angie bulging

Elizabeth Forsythe-Hailey didn’t write her debut novel “A Woman Of Independent Means” until she was 40 years old. Some stories may need time to mature to make a complete, strong impression. This includes this letter novel by the Dallas (US) born writer and journalist. The story of the independent Bess Steed appealed to many readers because of the intriguing feminist nature of the protagonist. The determination and quirkiness with which she organizes her life and colors the love for her partners and children is a remarkable thread in her life story. Not only did the book go unformed into a play, but also into a miniseries in 1995.

Lead actress Sally Field was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for her role. ‘A Woman Of Independent Means’ was also nominated at the Emmys, but in the end only took home an award for costume design. That is quite right, by the way. The series spans the first six decades of the twentieth century and the creators have done their utmost to strike the right chord in terms of atmosphere and props. The locations are beautiful. The clothes, cars and other objects fit perfectly into the atmosphere of each individual time period. It is easy to draw comparisons between this production and other female-led costume dramas such as ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (originally works by writer Jane Austen). As with the latter titles, this is about a strong female protagonist who tries to lead her life in an idiosyncratic way.

The most refreshing thing about this series (and the book) is Bess’ attitude towards the men in her life and the independence she seems to have been given through her mother. Is the first part of the series still fairly traditional in the sense that Bess marries her childhood sweetheart Rob; after his death, Bess increasingly develops into a woman with modern views on marriage and female self-determination. For this alone, the series is worth watching. But besides this interesting content, ‘A Woman Of Independent Means’ is also a beautiful and professionally made American drama. The series undeniably exudes class. Sally Field delivers an outstanding performance in her lead role, earning a deserved nomination as a result. But the rest of the cast is also doing well. Director Greenwald captures all this very skillfully and Steven Shaw’s cinematography is beautiful. A beautiful story of a quirky woman in a series that can be viewed by the whole family. Craftsmanship.

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