The Whole Wide World

on December 20, 1996 by Kevin Courrier
  &#160Based on the memoir "One Who Walked Alone" by Novalyne Price Ellis, this small gem is the story of the relationship between pulp writer Robert E. Howard ("Feeling Minnesota's" Vincent D'Onofrio), the man who created "Conan the Barbarian" and "Red Sonja," and Novalyne Price ("Jerry Maguire's" Renee Zellweger), a young Texas schoolteacher who has aspirations to be a writer during the early '30s.
  &#160What's remarkable is the way that debut director Dan Ireland gives such honest appraisals of the gulf between the genders and how these two innocents attempt to bridge it. D'Onofrio gives a boisterous performance that is both funny and touching. He plays Howard as a blustering country bumpkin whose sensitivities are masked by his macho posings. Yet Ireland and D'Onofrio get at a deeper conflict in Howard, which is the oedipal attachment he had to his mother (Ann Wedgeworth) that prevents him from having an adult relationship with another woman.
  &#160Zellweger is equally terrific, providing true verve that shows what would make her character a writer. Price is a proper girl, but with a bold temperament and a spirit of adventure. Howard's eccentricities stir not only her deeper desires to write but also her yearnings for passionate romance (with which, sadly, Howard can't cope).
  &#160The basics of their unconsummated relationship are told in a conventional manner (and could seem all too familiar to some viewers), but the material isn't conventional at all. "The Whole Wide World" is about how a man has to outgrow his mother before he can learn to love a woman. And Ireland and the cast take the kinds of emotional risks that make this film one of the most honestly moving films of the year. Starring Vincent D'Onofrio, Renee Zellweger, Ann Wedgeworth and Harve Presnell. Directed by Dan Ireland. Written by Michael Scott Myers. Produced by Carl-Jan Colpaert, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kevin Reidy and Dan Ireland. A Sony Classics release. Drama. Rated PG for a substantial amount of mild language and mature thematic elements. Running time: 111 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
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