Three days ago I rewatched Robert Benton‘s Places in the Heart (9.21.84). Sometimes older films hold up and sometimes they can seem a bit softer or less formidable in retrospect. Well, you can sheath that sword because the sands of time haven’t diminished Places in the Heart in the slightest. In my book it’s a truly great film. The church communion scene at the very end still turns me into mush.

Sally Field‘s “you really like me!” speech upon winning the Best Actress Oscar has been endlessly belittled, but over the last 40 years I’ll bet that few have given the film another shot and really settled into her performance. Her Edna Spalding is fairly magnificent…about as pained and stressed and rock-solid as it gets.

Director-writer Benton, who’s still with us at age 91, really knew rural, Depression-era Texas, having been born and raised in the backwater of Waxahachie (where Places in the Heart takes place) and you can feel that authority and authenticity in every scene.

Heart includes uncomfortably frank depictions of racism, and there’s no way in hell that the wokesters would allow such a film to be made today. But every frame is real and honest and humane. It’s touching, grueling, affecting…the way it really was back then, at least in Benton’s recollection.

I don’t want to hear one HE comment-threader argue this point…not one!

And the cast….good God! Field, John Malkovich, Danny Glover, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Lane Smith, Terry O’Quinn, Bert Remsen.

There’s a scene in which Smith urges the financially strapped Field to allow Malkovich’s “Mr. Will”, his blind brother-in-law, to stay with her as a lodger. Field’s initial response is “this isn’t a good time,” which I partly understood. At the same time I was muttering to myself, “Don’t say ‘no’ to Malkovich staying with you…please! He’s John Malkovich!”

Malkovich’s career erupted that year. His Heart performance resulted in a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He played a tough photojournalist in Roland Joffe‘s The Killing Fields. And he played Biff in a celebrated Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman, costarring with Dustin Hoffman. I caught Salesman in the spring or summer of ’84, and five minutes after Malkovich came on stage I said to myself, “Jesus fuck, this guy is amazing.”