Desert Bloom (1986)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

A nuclear bomb explodes along with a nuclear family in Eugene Carr's coming-of-age drama Desert Bloom. The film is set in the arid outskirts of Las Vegas in 1950. Thirteen-year-old Rose Chismore (Annabeth Gish) has just received her first pair of glasses and now begins to see her family and her environment much more clearly. Under the shadow of an impending atmospheric testing of an atom bomb, Rose's family frays under emotional and cultural changes. Rose's father Jack (Jon Voight) is a battle-scarred veteran of World War II who runs a gas station and drinks too much. Her mother Lily (JoBeth Williams) is a cheery housewife addicted to platitudes and gambling. Jack, lonely and depressed and drawn to his blossoming daughter, reacts to his incestuous attraction by blackening her eyes. Into this unhealthy mix comes Aunt Starr (Ellen Barkin), a glamorous and independent woman who comes to live with the family for the 42 days necessary to obtain a quickie divorce. Rose, with her luminous sensuality, begins to entice all the local wolves, along with her brother-in-law Jack.
PG (adult situations/language)
Drama , Kids & Family , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
RCA Video


Annabeth Gish
as Rose Chismore
Jon Voight
as Jack Chismore
JoBeth Williams
as Lily Chismore
Ellen Barkin
as Aunt Starr
Allen Garfield
as Mr. Mosol
Desiree Joseph
as Dee Ann
Dusty Balcerzak
as Barbara Jo
Tressi Loria
as Shelly
Kysha Doty
as Spelling Bee Contestant
William Lang
as Colonel
Jim McCarthy
as Driver
Ann Risley
as Mrs. Muratore
Rick Scheiffer
as Mr. Brandal
Irene Goodnight
as R.C. Volunteer
Eugenia Moran
as R.C. Nurse
Danica Remy
as Nurse
Armen Dirtadian
as Publicist
Al Petito
as Radio Clerk
Randy Harris
as Photographer
Chris Corr
as Delivery Boy
Fred C. Smith
as Tour Guide
Bob Gish
as Superintendent
Onna Young
as Spelling-Bee Contestant
Jesse Sloan
as Spelling-Bee Contestant
Kiysha Doty
as Spelling-Bee Contestant
Todd Barish
as Spelling-Bee Contestant
Sherry Allen
as Spelling-Bee Contestant
Doris Berman
as Woman at Spelling Bee
Judith Gish
as Spelling-Bee Moderator
Mike Stein
as Adult Party Goer
Ray LeFre
as Adult Party Goer
Tamara Cooley
as Adult Party Goer
Patty Harbor
as Adult Party Goer
Johnny L. Watkins
as Cab Driver
Mark Jenkins
as AEC Officer
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Desert Bloom

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (1)

This sensitive coming-of-age tale is framed by the narration of its grown-up protagonist, recalling her childhood in the 1950s, an era defined by the A-Bomb and the culture it created.

Full Review… | June 12, 2006

Memorable little story carried by Jon Voight.

June 11, 2005

a drama that stays with you; a good companion piece with "Blue Sky"

July 29, 2002
Kalamazoo Gazette

Manages to make clear that certain children possess the resiliency to handle the stress and pain of a troubled home.

Full Review… | February 14, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Quote not available.

June 18, 2004
Los Angeles CityBeat

Quote not available.

November 12, 2003
Star Newspapers (Chicago, IL)

Audience Reviews for Desert Bloom


This sensitive coming-of-age tale is framed by the narration of its grown-up protagonist, recalling her childhood in the 1950s, an era defined by the A-bomb and the culture it created.

Lee Mayo
Lee Mayo

"The Nuclear Family Meets the Atomic Age." Good tagline, nice little encompassing description, too. This is one of those many titles I grabbed on the ultra cheap at discount pricing from warehouse dumping at Big Lots (honestly, I'm one short of finishing the first wave, so then it's back to movies you might have actually heard of again--oh, I know, I've sprinkled in famous enough titles, but still) and in this case, while I did check all titles I bought against both Leonard Maltin (I've never found him a definitive source, but often if he does think it IS good, he's right, even if he's too hard on most things for me) and IMDb averaging, I often had some catch that pulled me in, usually actor, director, strange quirk or trivia. In this case--Jon Voight. I'm not sure when it is that I started liking Jon Voight. I remember seeing Anaconda in theatres (I've felt no need to see it since, just for the record) and noting that he was in it, but that was when I was just starting to be able to name people outside the huge, huge names. I know it was around 2000 or 2001 that I developed my belief that Angelina Jolie was the hottest woman on earth (she has since been topped) and soon discovered who her father was, but I remember thinking it was exciting that she came from that lineage, so it can't be then, either. Still, it occurred at some point, and it was my enthusiasm at seeing he had a STARRING role here that brought me into the movie with some awareness and interest. What we have here, since I imagine you don't know (most of you, at least) is the story of a small family in the early 1950's in the small town (!) of Las Vegas. Stepfather Jack (Voight) is a wounded war hero from World War II who runs a local gas station and autoshop, his wife Lily (JoBeth Williams) works at "the hotel part" of one of the local casinos, her sister Starr (Ellen Barkin) has just moved in because of messy plans for divorce with her husband Frank, and we center on the story of the eldest of three daughters, Rosalie Chismore (Annabeth Gish, many years before geeks like me would know her as Agent Monica Reyes in later seasons of The X-Files) who is thirteen as the movie opens. We see both her view of Jack, and an observer's, a third person view, and for the first time in my recollection, we see both the justifiable anger at a drunken, somewhat abusive stepfather, and the shattered shell of a man he is that drives him to that point. Annabeth is very believable as a thirteen year old--though, she was fifteen, so I suppose it wasn't a huge stretch--caught between the impulsive questioning of extreme youth and the growing awareness of how people act when you should leave a subject alone. She shows a pretty deep loathing for her stepfather, which we can't blame her for when his drinking gets far enough out of hand that he strikes her, or leads him to project his anger and frustration at her over everything else in his life. But we do see what has done this to him; we see how much he treasures his past, patriotically proud of his role in the war, and of the importance of his country and the protection of his family. We see that he is proud and stubborn whenever he does something despicable--but we can see in his face that on some level he is half-questioning the wisdom of his choices. Of course he is not one to apologize, admit error or even admit when he's unsure of himself, and feels that his interests and passions are those that everyone should have, but we know that he thinks he's doing right. This doesn't justify most of his actions, no, but we can see where he's coming from, and often see shades of the man hiding underneath that surface. A pretty solid little drama, really, that manages to feel very much like it must be what the fifties were like. As someone who sees little appeal in the culture and attitudes of the time, it was very impressive how well-conveyed it was here. It didn't feel like a distortion, or like I had much of it obscured by a focus on a single aspect. Maybe I was helped by the nostalgia it induced through its--oh you knew this was coming from me when you saw the year, didn't you?--very 80s style, though not in fashion or anything of that sort, but simply in its rich, lived in filmstock and full, natural colours. Or maybe I was just suckered in when Rose said that she liked books, movies and not much else. That could be it. My little interesting tidbit--the composer's name caught my eye in the opening credits. Brad Fiedel. I know this composer's name for one film--The Terminator. Slight change in style, both for him musically and for the film he was composing for. As you might imagine.

R.C. Killian
R.C. Killian

Exceptional film, and a real effort was made to capture the feel of the times. Great cast - they all do a good job. Excellent screenplay.

James Higgins
James Higgins

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