The fictionalised tale of the life of auther James Jones. Bill Willis is a WWII pilot turned author living in Paris with his wife Marcella and two children Channe and Billy. The story follows their lives in Paris, from Bill's health problems and the problems the children face growing up to their move back to their native USA.
With nary an uptight, corset-clad English rose in sight, Merchant Ivory's movie is set in the 1960s and 70s and has Kristofferson as Bill Willis, an American World War II veteran turned author living in Paris with his wife Marcella (Hershey) and daughter Channe (Luisa Conlon). Based on the autobiograpical novel by Kaylie Jones, the film takes Channe's viewpoint over ten years. Simply structured, it is divided into three sections, each one focusing on the men in Channe's life at important turning points. First up is Billy (Samuel Gruen), an illegitimate six-year-old French boy whom her parents adopt. The two develop a strong bond as they struggle together to be accepted at a bilingual school. Next, a few years later, teenage Channe (Sobieski) is still an outsider, befriended by the outlandish Francis Fortescue (Anthony Roth Costanzo), with whom she approaches adulthood. Finally, when the family returns to America, the siblings continue" to feel alienated and try to fit in by different means Billy (Jesse Bradford) by immersing himself in trash TV, Channe by sleeping around. Bill tries to help, but his new novel and old heart disease occupy too much of his time. Although it's obviously a privileged family and one which, because of its relative isolation is more than usually interdependent, this is a universal tale of the troubles of growing up, learning to deal with changes and disappointments, coping with separation, isolation and death. Though a likeable and honest narrator, Channe is perhaps too unremarkable to be the core of a movie, but she does serve as an adequate foil to the many more involving characters.
Not exactly ground-breaking, but an engaging story prettily told.