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A Painted House
Even by the high standards of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, A Painted House is well above average. John Grisham's well-received "lawyer-free" novel was respectfully adapted by Patrick Sheane Duncan (Mr. Holland's Opus), and director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate, A Walk in the Clouds) brings just the right touch of toughness and delicate nostalgia to Grisham's semi-autobiographical remembrance of boyhood in rural Arkansas, circa 1952. Grisham's alter ego is 10-year-old Luke Chandler (well played by Logan Lerman), and when tempers flare into violence between the Mexican migrant workers and itinerant "hill people" hired to harvest cotton on his grandfather's farm, Luke--who has witnessed a murder--must decide whether to expose the killer or keep the crime a secret. Filled with warm grace notes and a perfect cast including leather-faced Scott Glenn and Melinda Dillon (as Luke's grandparents), A Painted House juggles multiple crises (including devastating rainstorms) with strong family values, capturing the humor and hardship of farming life at a crossroads of fading tradition and inevitable change. Combining elements of To Kill a Mockingbird and Places in the Heart, this is a purebred Hallmark production in every respect, earning a badge of pride for everyone involved in its making. --Jeff Shannon
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