Because yesterday was 4th of July, I wanted to review a movie that took place somewhere in the United States. While I wanted to publish this article on 4th of July, my day ended up being busier than expected. So, this review is published a day later than I had hoped. Recently, Hallmark Drama was airing several Hallmark Hall of Fame movies I had never seen before. One of these films was 1987’s Foxfire. Years ago, Hallmark’s stores sold select Hallmark Hall of Fame films on DVD for $20 apiece (yes, you read that price right), with Foxfire being one of the titles offered. Before recording it on my DVR, I didn’t know much about the movie. In fact, all I knew was that it was one of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s older titles. When I discovered the film took place in Appalachia, I thought it would be an interesting choice for this time of year. So, would I buy a DVD copy of Foxfire if I saw it at the store for $20? Before we head to the store’s checkout line, let’s start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I’m not familiar with Jessica Tandy’s acting abilities. While I have seen The Birds, I don’t remember her performance in that movie. Despite this, I did like her portrayal of Annie Nations in Foxfire! It was very expressive, using a variety of expressions and emotions throughout the film. When Annie receives an art project from her grandchildren, she appears genuinely overjoyed to receive the gift. A big smile is on Annie’s face and her demeanor is pleasant. At her son’s, Dillard’s, concert, Annie looks truly concerned as he sings a song about a broken relationship. Worry is in her eyes and she never lets Dillard out of her sight. Another actor whose career I’m not familiar with is John Denver. I have heard of his songs, but I didn’t know who he was. In fact, I thought John portrayed one of the brothers on The Waltons. This is because of the mannerisms he carried in Foxfire. When his character, Dillard, was happy, there was a youthful spirit about him. It highlighted how you can take the Appalachian man out of the mountains, but you can’t take the Appalachian culture and heritage out of the man. One of John’s strongest scenes was when, in Annie’s home, Dillard is reminding his mother about her age and potential risks of living alone. As he is talking to her, his eyes look like they are desperately searching for answers to his problems. Even the tone of his voice sounds concerned. A character that is close to both Annie and Dillard is Holly. Portrayed by Harriet Hall, this character kind of reminded me of Baby from Dirty Dancing. This is because when Holly cares about someone, she cares about them with her whole heart. What makes Holly differ from Baby is how her personality was gentler. Because she is a teacher, she chooses to put her students first. When Holly is talking to Dillard about her students, her mannerisms and tone of voice seem motherly. This gives the audience the impression that she truly cares about them.
The scenery: I haven’t seen many films that take place in Appalachia. In fact, I didn’t know Foxfire took place in this location until I read the synopsis. To my pleasant surprise, the scenery was very nice to look at! The Nation family house was surrounded by forestry, with the tall trees providing cozy seclusion and privacy. When Dillard wakes up one morning, he is greeted by the sight of rolling hills on a bright sunny day. These rolling hills could also be seen on a car ride Annie took. When a real estate agent named Prince gives Annie a trip to the market, he takes a scenic route. The aforementioned rolling hills steal the show, but are accompanied by a lake at the bottom and surrounding colonial style vacation homes that can be seen from the road. The locations in Foxfire appeared quaint, similar to the small towns in most of Hallmark’s films.
John Denver’s music: Before watching Foxfire, I had heard a few of John Denver’s songs. Even though I don’t listen to country music much, the songs I have heard were nice to listen to. Within Foxfire, John performed four songs. Most of them were slower, more soulful pieces. This fit the overall tone of the film. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Dillard performs a song about a broken relationship. After his concert, he performs an acoustic version of the song. What I’ve gathered about some country music is how emotional it can be. In that acoustic version of Dillard’s song, his heart and spirit sounded wounded. This can be heard in his voice.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A televised play: Hallmark Hall of Fame has a history of adapting stage plays into movies. One of these titles I really like is the 1996 film, The Boys Next Door. However, what sets the 1996 production apart from Foxfire is how the overall project was executed. Because The Boys Next Door contains more key characters and locations within the story, the way this adaptation was delivered to the audience looked and felt like a movie. Foxfire, on the other hand, contained a smaller cast and had a condensed story, as most of the film takes places at Annie’s house. Even some of the scenes were drawn-out and isolated, like a stage production. While the project was shot like a movie, it felt more like a televised play.
Re-created moments from the past: Throughout Foxfire, Annie brings up several memories from her and her family’s past. Instead of providing flashbacks, four scenes were dedicated to showing the characters re-creating some of these moments. For example, a current day Annie and her late husband, Hector, are reenacting when he first proposed to her. Watching grown adults act like teenagers was a bit jarring, as this prevented me from getting fully investing in these scenes. If anything, the scenes made it look like the film’s creative team didn’t have enough room in their budget to hire additional actors.
Inconsistent elements: At the beginning of the movie, Hector provides a voice-over, explaining the significance of his family and their land. Thinking Foxfire would be from his perspective, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the story. But this was the only time any voice-overs were provided. The end of the film showed Hector breaking the fourth wall for one scene. Not only was the inclusion of this element random, but it made me wonder why it wasn’t consistently woven into the movie.
My overall impression:
Whenever I watch and/or review a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I always ask myself this: “if this movie were sold on DVD for $20, would it be worth my money”? When it comes to Foxfire, that answer would be no. At best, the movie was ok. I appreciate the film’s positive light that was shone on Appalachia. While I haven’t been there myself and while I personally don’t know anyone from there, I have heard of the hardships that the members of the community face. But despite the good will this film seemed to give, the biggest flaw was its overall execution. If I choose to watch a Hallmark Hall of Fame title, I expect to watch a movie. With Foxfire, it felt more like a televised play. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the re-created moments from the past. I couldn’t get past the adult characters acting younger than they were in the “current day”. Now that I’ve seen another Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, I can add it to my Tier Rank List! Last year, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame film I have seen so far. While I’d like to revisit this list, I will focus on adding more titles for now.
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame titles you’d like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
9 thoughts on “Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Foxfire Review”
Agreed. Despite great work by Tandy, the handling of the material leaves a lot to be desired. Have you seen To Dance with the White Dog (1993)? It’s another Hallmark Hall movie with Tandy and Cronyn. I liked it more than Foxfire.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for checking out my review, Eric! I haven’t seen ‘To Dance with the White Dog’, but I do plan on seeing it in the near future. Based on what I know about the story, it sounds like a more dramatic version of ‘Harvey’ (the movie with James “Jimmy” Stewart).
LikeLiked by 1 person
BTW, I watched “To Dance with the White Dog” on Youtube:
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’ve been on a bit of a John Denver kick lately and finally got around to Foxfire. 🙂 I remembered you mentioned it in your review of the Hallmark Hall of Fame “Harvey” (and I think I told you I’d let you know when I watched it), but I decided to check out your original review and continue our conversation here. 🙂
I see what you mean about the similarity to Harvey in that it retained its theatrical feel, and I will say again it’s just another example of an adaption style that used to be more common, particularly for Hallmark and other TV films, but isn’t really done anymore. (So, clearly, you and Eric Binford are not the only ones who don’t enjoy it, but I sort of like it. And I guess that’s because – as I think I’ve also said before – I’ve always appreciated theatre but don’t have easy access to it. So, adaptions in this play-like style are often as close as I get.)
And interestingly enough, we disagree on something else. I thought in the very first flashback that I was going to mention to you how much I liked that the actors got to play younger versions of themselves in those scenes. I’m sure that’s how it was done in the play (to keep the cast small), and it made me think of how we are always ourselves, if that makes sense. We weren’t entirely different people when we were younger, and no matter how much we grow and change, we don’t suddenly transform into entirely different people as we get older either. I found that rather touching. And to see that each flashback moved forward in time, until each character caught up to the age they are in present day made it even more so. ❤
My general opinion is that while I doubt I’d pay $20 for it either, I am so very glad I finally watched it and can access it on YouTube, especially since I found it somewhat relatable on a cultural and personal level. I’m from Tennessee, and while I don’t live IN the Appalachian Mountains, I live near them and also grew up in a remote, rural area myself. I know people who used to live in the mountains just like the Nations, though. My great-aunt grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, and while she and her family moved to Tennessee many years ago, I’ve heard her and her siblings and her mother tell stories that sound very similar to this film. I also know a lady whose mother never left her mountain home (also in Kentucky). She lived to be in her 90s, and her daughter lived Dillard’s experience – worrying about her and going back and forth trying to convince her to move – but unlike Annie, she never did. I always thought she must be very strong and her independence was what kept her going for so long.
Personally, the only feature I found distracting was the accents, which I thought were overdone (but I’m always sensitive to that). I’m not familiar with the actress who played Holly, but neither Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, nor John Denver are from the South, and I felt it showed. Boyd Gaines, who played Prince, is from Georgia and talks like that in everything I’ve seen him in, but I have to wonder if he’s made a career off of exaggerating his accent and continues to do it because, like Dillard said, that’s what people expect. I found it kind of ironic that Holly made a point of saying “we don’t all talk like Li’l Abner” when that’s basically what the actors were doing.
But once I adjusted (and I will admit, I am notoriously difficult to please in that area, so it’s probably more of my own issue), I found it all surprisingly relatable. My grandparents and great-grandparents were Southern farmers. In fact, I grew up on the family farm – which was acres and acres of land owned by my great-grandfather. So, I’ve heard of lots of talk about farming by the almanac and “the signs” – and though I’ve never experienced these things personally – about preparing a body at home and putting coins over the eyes (though I have no idea why that’s done or what that symbolizes) and about cutting your own hickory switch to be whipped with. Also, my grandfather loves sow’s meat, and although he doesn’t kill the pig himself, he buys it directly from a local man who does. Actually, I know several older men who remind me very much of Hector – to an extent, my grandfather and great-grandfather included.
One thing I have personally experienced is the decision of whether or not to sell generational family land. When I was growing up, three generations lived on the same large farm, and my grandfather already had a parcel of land picked out for me and my future husband – whoever that was going to be. When my great-grandparents died, my grandfather and his siblings eventually made the decision to sell quite a bit of the property, after being courted by a developer like Prince, to an exclusive community that bordered it. (So, not vacation homes, but close enough.) It totally changed the look of the place (because, of course, the land was developed more and more), and my grandfather wondered for years if he did the right thing – though he gradually sold even more as time went on, simply because it was difficult for him to take care of, since he eventually became the only one doing so. In the midst of all this, my parents divorced. My dad left, and my mom and I eventually did as well. Then my grandmother died, and that officially put my family in the same situation as the Nations. My grandfather had to decide if he wanted to stay or to sell the rest, and we had to have a talk about whether my mom and I wanted the land that was initially meant for us. We’re both single (I live in the city and she lives near it) – we wouldn’t be able to care for it and it wouldn’t suit us. He sold the rest of the property to a family and now lives with my mother. It was a very difficult time, and I will never forget that conversation. Like Annie said, life changes whether you want it to or not.
After I finished the film, I read about the play (mainly because I was curious why Hume Cronyn, who also co-wrote the play, would be interested in such a setting, since he’s Canadian and Jessica Tandy is British). I learned that it’s based on the Foxfire anthologies, which were themselves compiled from a project that originated as a high-school magazine. 😮 Students in Georgia would interview local mountain people about their lives and traditions, just like Holly did in the movie! Several popular books were eventually made from these interviews, which in turn, inspired the play. I think that’s just the coolest thing ever. 😀
I will also say that I assumed John Denver’s role had been tailored to suit him and to give him a chance to sing, but the original play was actually a “play with songs” – including even more than what we hear in the movie! – and the professional musician son whose career involves sort of making fun of his background was always a big part of the story.
If you’d like to see more of older Jessica Tandy (around the same age that she was in this film), I recommend Fried Green Tomatoes and Driving Miss Daisy, (Incidentally, both are also Southern stories. She played Southern women really well!) Also, she and Hume Cronyn were married in real life. I love performing couples. I haven’t yet seen To Dance with the White Dog, which Eric recommended, but I have seen them do The Gin Game. (Actually, that would have to have been around the same time as this film as well. My goodness, they were busy older actors!) I don’t think you’d like it, because it is quite literally the play shot on film and it’s just the two of them (mostly playing cards). But oh my goodness, for their talents alone, it is impressive!
And if you’d like to see more John Denver, I recommend Oh, God – an actual movie movie 😉 – and, one of my personal favorites, The Christmas Gift. It’s a TV movie from the ‘80s, and it’s a bit corny, but it holds a special place in my heart for some reason (probably because of John Denver). Actually, it’s rather Hallmark-ish, so it might be right up your alley. (It’s on Tubi, if you’re interested.) He also did some specials with The Muppets that can be found on YouTube and are really charming. And he was in a few other movies I haven’t seen yet but will likely soon make my way through them since, as I said, I’m currently on a John Denver kick (thanks in large part to my annual viewing of The Christmas Gift and the aforementioned Muppet specials). Incidentally, just in case you didn’t know, he died rather young in a plane crash. My breath caught a little when Annie said in this movie she worried about him flying! 😦
I love his voice and like his music (and should listen to more of it), but I think I enjoy his acting most. Although he obviously wasn’t a professional in that regard (singing / songwriting was his claim to fame and main area of expertise), he was still such a natural (as you noticed, too). Those are my favorite kind of actors anyway, and I especially love watching his films and TV roles in order (as I am right now) and seeing him get better and better with experience. Some people just have special talent. ❤
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on ‘Foxfire’! While I knew the film was an adaptation of a play, I wasn’t aware of the play’s origins. If you’re interested in Hallmark Hall of Fame movies featuring farming, I’d suggest checking out ‘O Pioneers!’ This film is based on a novel by Willa Cather and was released in 1992. I did review this movie, so I’ll share the link in this comment:
Thanks also for all the film recommendations! I’ll add them to my movie suggestion board on Pinterest!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I left a rather long comment that seems to have disappeared, and it’s bugging me. 🙂 Did it make its way to you, or is it really gone forever?
LikeLiked by 1 person
When did you post the comment? Was it about ‘Foxfire’?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yep. 🙂 I remember you mentioned it in your review of Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Harvey, and I wanted to let you know I’d finally seen it and share what I thought about it (lots and lots of thoughts 😉). But I also wanted to read your original review of it first, so I searched for it and left the comment there (on your review of Foxfire). But searching for it took me out of my WordPress Reader, so maybe that messed something up? It may be in your Pending or your Spam. If not, I’ll try again. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, I did find your comment in Spam. Just posted your original comment.
LikeLiked by 1 person