Calder Willingham’s memoir [novel] of the South, Rambling Rose is a funny and moving tale of an oversexed young woman from the wrong side of the tracks.
Rose (Laura Dern) starts her life as maid to the family of Robert Duvall and Diane Ladd in a small Georgia town in 1935. It turns out that rumors of her having been forced into prostitution at a tender age are true. Both Duvall and his 13-year-old son Lukas Haas are immediately taken by Dern’s raw sexuality, yet it is the boy who nearly has his first conquest with her when Dern innocently gets in bed with him one night in a funny and risque scene.
Duvall is a proper gentleman, rejecting Dern’s attempt at seduction and quickly adopting a fatherly concern for her. Family matriarch Ladd (Dern’s real-life mom) is a Yankee educated at Columbia U who also takes Dern under her wing. Main source of conflict is Dern’s promiscuous activities, which cause young men to loiter outside the house at all hours.
Dern’s naturalness in a very eccentric role confirms the promise of her earlier work. Duvall and Ladd play off each other to perfection. Director Martha Coolidge and her technical crew have re-created the detail and texture of Southern life with great feeling at Carolco’s Wilmington, NC, studio.
1991: Nominations: Best Actress (Laura Dern), Supporting Actress (Diane Ladd)