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Into the era of American sixties culture we head again. There was the age of drugs, free sex, anti-war sentiment, and musical free spirit. This directorial debut by Tony Goldwyn recounts the times by focusing on the life of one woman. The story is set in 1969 around a Jewish bungalow community, in which a lower middle class family become immersed, throughout these heady times of changing values. It’s interesting to note that the year of 1969 has again been explored. So many historic events occurred during that year and it again sets the pattern for engrossing moments of this film.
Marty (Live Schreiber) is a television repairman who is unable to take time off to enjoy time on the small resort with his family. His wife Pearl (Diane Lane) spends the week with her two children and mother-in-law in the lead-up to man’s walk on the moon. Marty stays on weekends only. The loving bond between Marty and Pearl dates back when Marty abandoned the dream of higher education in a scientific field, and became part of a happy marriage to a teenaged Pearl. However, the latest situation takes hold of Pearl. Her daughter Alison (Anna Paquin) is now a teenager herself and her actions give Pearl the urge to experiment herself. She wants to feel young again. It’s the summer of ’69. Woodstock is set to grip the country, and the expectation of man walking on the moon has the community excited. The catalyst for Pearl’s expression of freedom is Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen) who is better known as The Blouse Man. He travels from resort to resort in a converted bus, selling his wares at cheap prices. He is affable and quite the hippie and charms Pearl. At a particular time, coinciding with Neil Armstrong’s famous moonwalk, Pearl enjoys a liberated, overheated fling with The Blouse Man.
Meanwhile, Alison is coping with her first boyfriend and her first period and turns rebellious against her mother. It adds up to an interesting scenario at the Woodstock music festival where daughter sees mother with other man. It is apparent that Pearl seems captive in her early marriage, yearning for fulfilment in where her life may have led. The reckless affair is a means of breaking free from past constraints. Will she dream on, or revitalise the love for her family?
It has the contents of a soap opera, but there is a notable difference. The characters here are well developed, fully realised, and complex. The director takes the effort to explore Pearl’s personality and makes her real to the viewer. We understand her actions and motivations. Diane Lane effectively conveys the awakening sexuality that the era heralded. She is lovely and appealing. The two leading men provide unique portraits of good hearts but with very different lifestyles. Anna Paquin shows her capability in a meaty, yet subtle, role. The nostalgia of 1969 is well depicted as the background for a story that never loses sight of the characters. It is romantic and evocative.