I Dreamed of Africa

Where, oh where, has Kim Basinger gone? After winning an Oscar for her role in L.A. Confidential, Basinger laid low, carefully picking and choosing what role to follow up her Academy Award winning role with. She returns as Kuki Gallmann, and Italian conservationist living in Africa in I Dreamed of Africa, a slow moving movie that feels like a documentary on the Discovery Channel. If it is any consolation, Basinger does well as Gallmann, proving that the Oscar she won was well deserved. Gallmann's memoirs of the same name form the basis for the movie. In fact, Gallmann, along with screenwriters Paula Milne (Mad Love) and Susan Shilliday (Legends of the Fall) share writing credits for the movie.

In the 1970s, Gallmann (Basinger, The Getaway), new husband Paolo (Vincent Perez, Le Bossu, Indochine) and her young son Emmanuel moved to Africa to start over. They settled in Ol Ari Nyiro, a dilapidated ranch in Kenya, and immediately started renovations. Paolo warned her that the pace of life was different, much slower than in Italy. Paolo begins spending days away hunting with his friends, and Kuki and Paolo begin to drift apart. Because she is alone so much, she begins to learn how to run the ranch, and fosters a sense of independence and freedom for herself. All of this changes the Discovery Channel documentary to a Lifetime movie of the week. Basinger toes the line between dramatic acting and over-emoting, but this is because of the script. She does add depth to a shallowly written character though. Perez and everyone else are mere afterthoughts.

The visuals are breathtaking. Director Hugh Hudson (Lumiere and Company, My Life So Far) prefers showing Africa through a long lens, with fantastic plains and mountains, and large herds of animals. Some of the film was even shot on Gallmann's real ranch. The only problem is, there is so much focus on the visuals that any story is forgotten. Gallmann is a world-renowned conservationist, but this is not evident from the film. There are only small vignettes on African life in a slow moving film where little happens. It is hard to believe that Paolo and Kuki are drifting apart when so little is seen of them getting together. Also, although the film takes place a matter of decades ago, everything looks like it came out of the earlier part of the century. If Teddy Roosevelt passed in the background on safari, it would be completely believable. The lack of Africans (hey, it is Africa after all) is also strange. Kuki Gallmann's life story is interesting, but not as it is told here.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated PG-13 for a scene of nudity/sensuality and some violent/traumatic episodes.

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