Far and Away is essentially the cinematic equivalent of a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button. Directed by Ron Howard, it’s a grandiose—and utterly hollow and embarrassing—epic love story, with lashings of a western thrown in. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman during the period of their marriage, which fell apart in spectacular fashion by the end of the ’90s, probably thanks Cruise’s devotion to an intergalactic warlord known as Xenu. Nicole Kidman wasn’t yet the actress she would become –she is now one of the finest working in the industry, the actress that Hollywood thinks Meryl Streep is.
Cruise plays Joseph Donnelly, the working poor lad who after his father’s death and a convoluted series of events, ends up in the States with Kidman’s Shannon Christie. They’re doing OK for a while, with Donnelly becoming a bare-knuckle boxer for a period, But they get screwed over eventually, and have to separate to make ends meet, hoping that one day they can own land together. Shannon’s parents end up coming to the States as well, and the conflict that started in Ireland continues.
Howard clearly wanted the film to be some kind of Irish Gone with the Wind, but it’s obviously not, and its depiction of Irish culture is about as deep as a box of Lucky Charms. The landscapes photographed by cinematographer Mikael Salomon are pretty, but whether they are of Ireland or Montana, they are mostly scenes that only the most incompetent filmmaker could not photograph well. Ron’s brother Clint shows up for a scene and is embarrassingly awful (he was never a “good” actor.) It’s also Cyril Cusack’s last film. Cruise’s accent isn’t as terrible as you would imagine—in some ways it’s more consistent than Leonardo DiCaprio’s in Gangs of New York, for example—but DiCaprio gives an overall far superior performance in a film that is probably truer to the experience of most Irish immigrants at around the same time that both films are set in.
Howard would go on to become the poor man’s Steven Spielberg, and has done films as great as Apollo 13 to films so bad that all copies should be destroyed, i.e. The Grinch. It’s kind of unbelievable that the same man who directed Far and Away and Apollo 13 just three years apart, also made The Paper in between.
If you have to see Cruise and Kidman on screen together, go for Eyes Wide Shut or even the film Quentin Tarantino once called “a Sergio Leone race-car movie,” Days of Thunder.
The only special feature is the trailer.