Halfway through watching this movie again last night it occurred to me that Mary Steenburgen and Alfre Woodard are in another of my favorite, seldom-watched movies -- "Miss Firecracker". This one, "Cross Creek" is the story of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the classic "The Yearling" who, in 1928 left her husband and writing career to move to Florida -- the Everglades, apparently -- to be able to write in peace. (I may have missed the "why" of the move to Florida and how she landed where she did.) Of course, the shack she's moving into is a shambles and she's a prissy, self-important New Yorker, closed off and determined to write Gothic novels a la "Jane Eyre".
In the course of things she hires a housekeeper (Woodard), meets her backwoods neighbor Marsh Taylor (Rip Torn) and his daughter, who turns out to be the inspiration for "The Yearling". And there's the charming local man who owns the hotel in town (Peter Coyote) with whom she falls, eventually, in love. She brings her orange grove to life, relaxes gradually into a routine -- and continues to work away on her Gothic, determined to finish and send it off to her editor, Max Perkins, in New York. (Perkins was an editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, who also published F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and where I worked for a few years in the 70's.)
Of course the novel is a dud, and Perkins urges her to write stories based on the people she's met and her experiences starting a new life in the Florida swamp. Which she does, along the way tapping into her true talent and allowing people into her life and her heart. She also came to understand the importance of the land and the people who helped sustain it.
It's a simple film, but deceptive. The most "dramatic" part of the story comes about three-quarters of the way through, but it grows on you slowly, thanks to the direction and the pitch-perfect performances, everything so beautifully underplayed -- even the "big" characters like the backwoods local and Alfre Woodard's Geechee. (Both Rip Torn and Woodard received Oscar nominations.) It reminds you that a really, really good movie doesn't need a convoluted plot and a lot of CGI effects and violence to really engage you, and it thankfully doesn't become one of those "how a genteel city gal moves to the stix and grows a spine" flicks. Rawlings was apparently a tough, headstrong woman and it's also about how a creative artist finds her voice.
Check out some of the reviews on the IMDb website -- some of them give a better overall idea about the picture. I just wanted to let you know about "Cross Creek". Enjoy!