I Dreamed of Africa Movie Review
Drawing comparisons to such Man vs. Nature films as Out of Africa, A Far Off Place, and The Ghost and the Darkness, I Dreamed of Africa tells the true story of Kuki Gallmann (Basinger), an Italian divorcee who upends her life to move to Kenya with her second husband Paolo (Vincent Gallo), who, ahem, dreams of buying a 100,000 acre cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere.
Life in Africa, Kuki finds, is hard. Though her son Emanuele (Liam Aiken; later Garrett Strommen) loves it, she has a tough time adapting to the "different rhythm" of the wilderness -- mainly because that rhythm involves fighting off elephants, snakes, lions, poachers, bandits, bad weather, and Kuki's frou-frou mother Franca (Eva Marie Saint, returning to the big screen).
Kuki and Family survive one disaster after another -- until the wilds take their toll, none of which seem to faze anyone very much. Usually, Kuki will shed a brief tear, make a speech, and then move on with life. Two hours of this and the movie is over, and we've borne witness to a largish chunk of Kuki's existence... but to what end? Ultimately the movie becomes The Mosquito Coast, only set in Africa and without an ending.
I Dreamed of Africa sounds suspiciously like the adaptation of Kuki's autobiography, which, of course, is what it is. And as a book adaptation, the story feels strangely abridged, as if the screenplay is based on every other page of the book, willy-nilly. The plot bounces around without much cohesiveness, and few of the characters are developed enough to become lovable. This might all have been redeemed if Basinger had turned in a tour de force performance, but ultimately you don't get a real sense of what Kuki is all about. You don't even get a sense that Kuki is supposed to be Italian.
In the end, we learn little more than the fact that Africa is both beautiful and difficult. Oddly, just like the movie.
Dreaming of Africa.
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