Sophie's Choice - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sophie's Choice Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2010
Though this film is ultimately just an exercise in melodrama, the character of Sophie Zawistowska is very complex and interesting to watch, and by no means hampered by the brilliant performance from Meryl Streep. Essentially this film is pegged as a story about the Holocaust, but it's much more than that. Though there are undoubted horrors seen onscreen, and this film deals with true facts about the inhuman exploits of the Nazis, the story is more about guilt. Everyone hides something horrible in their past, Sophie included, and that shame and repugnance shape whatever decisions we make in the future. Sophie has a very dire choice to make, and because of it she feels she doesn't deserve happiness in the future. Atrocities loom in her periphery, but she's trying to be friendly with Stingo (MacNichol) and romantic with Nathan (Kline), cheery and forgotten to her past, untied to her family. Using the Holocaust as a backdrop helps permeate the grandiosity of her guilt, and shows the terrors inflicted upon her, though any number of other historical atrocities would have served the same major purpose of influencing Sophie's guilt. It's not until the very last minutes of the film that we realize the true gravity of that guilt, and we understand the outcome for Sophie, Stingo, and Nathan. While it may not have aged especially well, there's still such vibrancy, and the illuminating performance from Streep will hold weight even decades in the future.
Super Reviewer
½ August 31, 2011
In Brooklyn in the years following WWll and a young Southern writer falls for a refugee of Auschwitz who is herself embroiled with a charismatic American Jew, only all is not rosy. Everyone is carrying baggage and the film opines that the choices we make (especially with relationships) are directly related to the baggage we carry. Its a mouthful to relay in the space of a film but the actors make it easier, lead by Streep who is at her most luminous.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2011
Hmm, let's see here: this hasn't aged well, but it's still a decent film filled with excellent performances. Hoenstly, that's really the highlight here. Essentially this film is just high melodrama with a Holocaust stroy thrown in as a way to make a love triangle seem more interesting. That is, of course, a simplification, but not too far from the truth.

I did like this film though, even if I don't see it as beign a real cinematic masterpiece or anything. Maybe had the film focused more on the Holocaust stuff and less on the post war stuff, or maybe had they taken the titular moment and made it the real centerpiece or something I could find this film to be more brilliant, or at least as brilliant as the performances.

That's all anyone seems ot talk about here are the performances, well, mostly Streep's. It's true, this is her greatest achievement as an actress, and this is a beuatiful turn she gives as a Holocaust survivor with a really dark past. The others are good too though. I used to think that peter MacNicol was only good at playing the creep in Ghostbusters II; I'm happy to report that he does a really good job here as well. Kevin Kline gives a remarkable performance as a really unbalanced man with whom you can never predict what he will say or do next. They both get overshadowed by Streep, but that's kinda understandable.

I liked the music, and the look was decent, but the stroy just didn't quite have me like maybe it should have. I'm no ogre. The scene where the film gets it's title is a very heartbreaking and emotional scene-I just wish the rest of the film could have been as focused and stirring. Maybe they could have trimmed some of the running time in the process.

All in all, a decent film, but nothing extremely remarkable, although that goes for the film as a whole, and not the individual parts that make it up. You should see this if only for the acting. One may think that such a statement is overrated, but I disagree. The work here (mostly Streep's) will forever be one of the greatest examples of successful acting ever committed to film.
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2010
Sophie's Choice takes you on quite a memorable rollercoaster ride of emotion. It's a film that has great characters and great actors to back them up. You really feel for these individuals and go through all their pains as well as their happy times.

It's not a 'feel good' movie if that is what you are looking for, but it is an interesting perspective on what many people have gone through from a war-torn era.

It's almost like 2 films in one, or at least two storylines in one film, therefore it makes it quite a long one, but it is necessary and leads to an entertaining film.
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2010
What high drama! Sure: the eponymous "choice" is intense, but what makes this film so finely balanced is the subplots with Nathan and Stingo. There is enough light-hearted action to prevent this from becoming a two-and-a-half-hour downer, and the contrasting elements - the light frivolity of Nathan, Sophie's enraptured, co-dependent love for him, and Stingo's gentle, Southern demeanor - make the heavy moments of the film - Nathan's eventual break down and mood swings and the now-famous choice - all the more effective. All of the performances are excellent, but what probably gets lost in the shuffle of Kline's energy and Streep's effortless, bilingual portrayal is MacNicol's steady, heartfelt nature. His performance is so natural and he listens with such a relaxed demeanor that I daresay his is the finest work in this film.
That said, there are moments when the film wanders. There are occasions - albeit few - when I wondered about the film's heavy concentration on the flashbacks, which were not leveraged to the degree they could have been.
Overall, though, it's not the depressing, maudlin tear-jerker I expected and avoided for so long, and the film is better for it.
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2007
An enjoyable film throughout, whether it be the relationships between the main characters, the flashbacks or the actual theme of the film.

Streep is fantastic and whilst I can't assume her accent to be perfect , it came across authentic. Kevin Kline was the was the biggest sruprise for me, (having only seen him in Comedy Roles before) who gave a truly good performance.

An intriguing tale with many tangents.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2007
Not only Meryl Streep's greatest role, but quite possibly the greatest female lead role ever performed. An absolutely devastating film.
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2007
This is one of my all time favs of Meryl Streep's. What a wonderful film that discusses the harsh reality of a woman trying to move on after being part of a concentration camp in WWII. This is a MUST SEE!
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2007
Brilliantly acted, throughly depressing.
Super Reviewer
½ August 25, 2006
It was okay.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
June 29, 2014
We're looking at quite the musical festivities, folks, and fellas, it's Sophie's choice tonight! That was lame, I know, but it was a little better than referencing the "Hairspray" song, because that would be way too perky for a film of this type. First it was an actual miniseries titled "Holocaust", and then this, so it would appear as though the Holocaust was popular subject matter for Meryl Streep, up until they figured out that she's not actually Jewish, and is just from New Jersey. Well, she leaves the Holocaust film industry with a bang here, not necessarily because the movie is so good, but because she's playing a Polish immigrant with the last of name of Zawistowski, and she's Jewish enough by associating herself with Alan J. Pakula. Needless to say, Pakula's directing, production and writing this, because this is a serious passion project for his Polish-Jewish self, which would get me mighty pumped up if this film's runtime wasn't two-and-half hours, on the dot. Hey, I dig a good, long drama and all, but I've seen about half of Pakula's 138-minute-long "All the President's Men", and by that, I mean that I slept through the other half. Well, as luck would have it, this film is mighty rewarding to the patient, although, make no mistake, it does have a tendency to try your patience, and not just with its pacing.

This is a very heavy drama which touches upon a lot of weighty dramatics and worthy themes, and does so typically with a powerful realism, thus, when the film does slip into melodramatics, it's really hard to get past the momentary lapses in genuineness, no matter how mild. Inconsistencies go well beyond the level of genuineness in the drama, because much more than it gets carried away with certain dramatics, the film gets carried away with layering its narrative, which alternates between a young stranger befriending strange folks in a strange land from which he hopes to emerge as a successful novelist, and a biting study on the trauma of a Holocaust survivor who can't seem to ever escape some form of anguish, both of which are so distinguished in tone and theme that their juxtaposition shakes a sense of evenness. If nothing else, the layers leave the heavier subject matter to call your attention towards the banality of the relatively light subject matter, which in turn defused much dramatic momentum, thus resulting in natural shortcomings that probably shouldn't even be in the concept, limiting value with a certain blandness which is not helped by slow spells. Really, with all of my joking about fearing that this film would be dull, I was rarely bored, and when I was, then just barely, yet the fact of the matter is that there are dull spells hit every now and then when Alan Pakula's thoughtfulness loses material to draw upon, in the midst of all of the dragging. Yes, if nothing else is problematic here, it's the film's simply being too blasted long, for although I certainly appreciate a drama which has the guts to get extensive with its storytelling, there's something almost monotonous about the film's meandering along its uneven and sometimes limp path, whose other shortcomings might have been forgotten if the final product didn't take its time to be intimate with all of its blemishes. There are occasions in this film that I really dig, but considering that the film is so long, those occasions are relatively rare, and no matter how much the film compels consistently, it could have been more in certain places, and could have settled down in others. Of course, perhaps it is simply momentum's being subdued by questionable structuring that holds the final product back a bit, as the mistakes are limited, at least in comparison with the strengths.

A touch unevenly used, Marvin Hamlisch's score, upon coming into play, is anything from sweeping to piercingly subtle, as surely as Nestor Almendros' cinematography, despite often being rather subdued, has some subtle dynamicity which is near-captivating enough without highlights in a distinguished palette that sometimes haunts when it falls upon memorable visuals. Aesthetic value is subtle, but it is very much there when you find it, being so tasteful that it actually reflects an artistic ambition which is nothing short of worthy, because even though one can go on and on debating the unevenness in the weight of the story layers, most every branch in this narrative intrigues, whether it be focusing on the charming tale of an aspiring writer making new friends with disturbing secrets, or focusing on the aspiring tale of a woman facing terrible struggles during and followed one of the great travesties of the modern world, there's plenty of potential, as Alan J. Pakula realize. This means that the storytelling is characterized by a sense of ambition that leads to some questionably overblown aspects, until met with true inspiration within Pakula's efforts, both as a writer of razor-sharp dialogue and thoroughly extensive characterization, and as a director whose thoughtfulness is rarely all that dulling when its bite lapses, with heights in realization which, during the lighter moments, entertain, and, during the heavier moments, devastates. This drama is emotionally challenging, and I mean that in a very good way, for although the film doesn't hold up enough to momentum to stand out on the whole, its highlights are penetrating in their doing great justice to great and valuable subject matter, which thrives on a human heart that in turn thrives on hearty performances. This is a big cast, but only so many members receive a fare share of attention, and when they do, they carry the soul of this character drama, with Peter MacNicol being sharp enough in his charm and convincing enough in his portrayal of a caring man of sophistication and ambition helps in making the Sting character's relatively light story so endearing, even again subject matter so hefty, while Kevin Kline steals the show at time in his even more convincing portrayal of a thoroughly charismatic and often flamboyant man whose emotional instabilities make shifts into intense and violent fury disturbingly unpredictable. Of course, at the end of the day, the true show-stealer here is the lovely Meryl Streep, whose excellence, plain and simple, cannot be overstated, as she is astonishingly impeccable, not simply with an accent as challenging as that of a pole, but with her vulnerable and emotionally intense portrayal of a woman seeking excitement, joy and love in a free world that go challenged by yet more sorrow and isolation which remind her of struggles no human should have suffer through, resulting in a performance so nuanced, so transformative, and so piercing that it simply would have to be seen in order to be believed, were it not beyond believe, let alone words. Streep is amazing, and although I won't go so far as to say that I wish the film itself was nearly of that quality, Streep is one of many highlights that could have made an excellent film, or at least a strong one, and yet, the final product is never less than engrossing as a thoroughly rewarding drama.

In conclusion, there is a hint of bloating to the dramatics, and a great deal of bloating a structure which has a tendency to fall into inconsistencies in a sense of consequence that dilutes dramatic magnitude about as much as dry spells and meanderings, thus, the final product falls way shy of a potential that is still juicy enough for beautiful scoring and cinematography, inspired and often emotionally impacting writing and direction, and powerful performances - the most powerful of which being by the amazing Meryl Streep - to prove to be enough to secure Alan J. Pakula's "Sophie's Choice" as a rewarding and often enthralling portrait on human instabilities and great secrets.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2014
The slow paced story of a Polish refugee in the post war period leading to one of the most disturbing revelations in film history is an apex performance by Streep. Will remain with you forever.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2013
The Holocaust is always a difficult subject to translate to film, and especially difficult to put to film in a way that is meaningful beyond the subjects' inherent weight, in that it doesn't rely on the tragic nature of the Holocaust to bring it resonance. Instead, it manages to bring an interesting story, in its own merits, and interweaves it with skill, albeit perhaps a bit too melodramatic at times.

What really makes Sophie's Choice work are the characters involved, which are impeccably cast. This is anchored primarily by Meryl Streep, with a characteristic powerhouse performance, but also matched well by Kevin Kline as the manic, intelligent, but hopelessly charming Nathan Landau. The actors inhibit their characters with such nuance, with such dedication, that it really makes the film impacting, even with the bloated run time.

The script was also another standout with the film, which takes its time to build the characters and realize the setting. The flashbacks are exceedingly well written and incorporated, with the film feeling coherent and organically composed. The dialogue and narration are also well done.

The only real drawback to the film is the running time, which feels a bit bloated. The film does seem to lose momentum towards the end, which is partly a symptom of this. It's also a little too over dramatic in many respects, but the actors and strong writing always keep the film engaging, and definitely moving. A powerful drama.

4/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
September 17, 2007
If it wasn't for Meryl Streep, I think this film would have been completely terrible. See it for her and nothing else. The scene were Sophies Choice is revealed is one of the most heartwrenching things ever put on film and it is all because of streeps performance. The rest of the film is rather dull an unintersting, but worth your time for it's one great performance.
Super Reviewer
April 15, 2007
Meryl Streep gives one of the best performances ever in this film. She's a natural. I was surprised about how little the movie focused on its famous scene. When it came though, the tears a'flowed. Kevin Kline is such an ass.
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2007
It is possible to make an affecting holocaust drama with great performances that doesn'
Super Reviewer
½ October 2, 2013
Many argue that Alan J. Pakula's theatrical treatment of 'Sophie's Choice' was a miscalculation, but I'm not convinced that it was. Of course, the film feels longer than it is, and Pakula's style contributes to this, but he also gives the dialogue scenes an added emotional weight that makes the outcome as powerful as it is. Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and (to a certain extent) Peter MacNicol give remarkable performances, and they're the real reason to give the film a watch. My opinions about the directional and photographical choices are mixed, but I was moved by 'Sophie's Choice,' and that's what counts.
Super Reviewer
February 5, 2008
A complex but beautifully crafted sory-tragic,poignant and Kline and Streep are excellently cast. The plot is somewhat complex-not real impressed with the adaptation form the book or the editting.
½ March 1, 2015
Sophie's Choice is such a popular term now in pop culture without even knowing or seen the movie. It is known for having to make an impossible choice. The movie takes place in 1947 where a young author encounters and befriends two neighbors Sophie (Meryl Streep) and Nathan (Kevin Kline). As his friendship builds, he comes to know these two interesting characters, and eventually leads to Sophie entrusting into him the horrors she had to deal with during the Holocaust. The movie of course builds up to the moment in which a mother has to make that impossible choice of which children of hers should be allowed to live. Sophie's Choice as a movie is somewhat average, but with Streep, the movie adds an entire dimension. Her accent, and the fact she learns Polish and German for this role is incredible. Sophie's Choice should be seen more for the performance piece rather than an epic tale.
½ October 2, 2013
This is a long, depressing film, but Meryl Streep's Oscar winning performance is the reason to see it. The flashbacks are the best parts of the movie and you see why Streep is one of the greatest actors of all time. The present day scenes are good, but that section drags with Kevin Kline as an abusive husband. The + in my grade is for Streep's performance. The movie is just okay.

Grade: B+
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