I Dreamed of Africa
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Review by Matt Heffernan
The only serious competition this weekend for the grand spectacle of Ridley Scott's Gladiator is another ambitious project, equally expensive-looking and vacuous. This one, however, is meant to attract an entirely different audience, which will be much smaller, I'm afraid.
After a devastating car accident, Kuki (Kim Basinger), a divorced mother in Italy, is looking for a new life. She gets married to Paolo Gallmann (Vincent Pérez), who was also in the accident. He takes Kuki and her son, Emmanuele (Liam Aiken), to his ranch in Kenya. Kuki is very excited, because (you guessed it) she has always dreamt of Africa.
Kuki learns that ranch life requires a different "rhythm" to get from day to day. This means that Paolo will leave for days at a time with his friends, hunting, getting drunk, or some combination of the two. She often finds herself in charge of the ranch, with only her Kenyan servants to help her (good thing it only took a few days to learn Swahili). They have problems with elephant and rhinoceros poachers, not to mention lions and snakes, and various other threats.
There isn't a real plot in I Dreamed of Africa, just a series of crises -- like Giant, just not very good. It is based on Kuki Gallmann's memoir of the same title, and her story has become fairly well known. I certainly knew enough of it to be completely disaffected by anything that happened in the film. The real merit here is in the glorious location shooting, showcasing wide vistas of the African landscape. A better title would have been I Filmed Africa.
But if I want to see that, I'll watch a National Geographic documentary. If only Gallmann had filmed these events herself, we wouldn't have to endure Hugh Hudson's clumsy take on the story. It looked like he was off to a good comeback with last year's My Life So Far, but this might be the end of it. He gets a decent performance from Basinger (making her first film since L.A. Confidential), but the screenplay (by Paula Milne and Susan Shilliday) turns the whole film into an anti-climax.
Hudson should have seen this, and made the appropriate cuts to resolve the problems. I truly believe that this could have been a much better film, especially if it was a reel shorter. Anyway, this film will be totally ignored in the wake of Gladiator, so there's no use dwelling on it.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
I Dreamed of Africa (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan