Clara's Heart is a 1988 American drama film, based on Joseph Olshan's novel of the same name, directed by Robert Mulligan, written by Mark Medoff and is also Neil Patrick Harris' debut role.

Clara's Heart
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Mulligan
Screenplay byMark Medoff
Based onClara's Heart by
Joseph Olshan
Produced byMartin Elfand
StarringWhoopi Goldberg
Michael Ontkean
Kathleen Quinlan
Neil Patrick Harris
Spalding Gray
CinematographyFreddie Francis
Edited bySidney Levin
Music byDave Grusin
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 7, 1988 (1988-10-07)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5,194,491 (domestic)[1]

Plot Edit

The Hart family, parents Leona and Bill and son David, suffer the loss of their infant daughter Edith. The parents travel to Jamaica, where they meet a hotel maid, Clara Mayfield, offering her work as the housekeeper. Clara accepts, and takes the position at the family's Baltimore lakefront estate.[2]

Bill and Leona then go their separate ways. Bill dates an interior designer, and Leona moves to California to live with a famed self-help author, Dr. Peter Epstein. David, staying in Baltimore, is upset, perceiving them as focused on themselves instead of their own son.[2]

A bond then forms between David and the housekeeper, who he initially was unwelcoming towards. However, this is put at stake when he gets into her private letters written by her son Ralphie. Clara eventually explains to David that she disowned Ralphie for raping a woman, who then did the same to Clara before taking his own life by jumping off a cliff. Clara then quits the job without saying goodbye to David, who reacts in rage.[2]

David briefly visits his mom in California, before moving back to Baltimore to meet his father and Clara, who has a new job. He apologies to Clara for his immature behavior, showing appreciation for helping him get through the divorce. Clara says he will always be in her heart.[2]

Cast Edit

Production Edit

The film marked a return to the director's chair for industry veteran Robert Mulligan, who had not made a film in six years after the critical and commercial failure of Kiss Me Goodbye. Film editor Sid Levin describes Mulligan as being "a bit aloof" during their first meeting but coming across as "a caring, sensitive, decent man." Mulligan was tense during the shooting period, however, and grew angry when Levin expressed his concerns over the scenes involving actor Spalding Gray. Not until principal photography was finished was Mulligan willing to discuss alternative ideas with Levin in the editing room. They wound up finding common ground over one of the crucial scenes towards the end of the film, in which Clara confesses to David the truth about her son. When Mulligan realized that actress Whoopi Goldberg had improvised the sequence too negatively, Levin was able to edit the sequence in such a way to make it feel less dark.[3]

Filming included several locations in Talbot County, Maryland. The opening scene, a funeral, was filmed at the historic Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, Maryland. The mansion home of Bill (Michael Ontkean) and Leona Hart (Kathleen Quinlan), and her young son, David (Neil Patrick Harris) is found on Old Country Club Road, adjacent to Maryland State Route 33 near Easton, Maryland. Other locations included Saint Michaels, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, New York and Port Antonio, Jamaica.

This was the third and final theatrical production made by MTM Enterprises.

Reception Edit

The film had a chilly reception with critics. Roger Ebert, In a 1 1/2-star review for the Chicago Sun Times, praised Whoopi Goldberg's performance but panned the film itself, writing, "Goldberg is magnificent. The character belongs in a different film, even a different universe, from the rest of the ludicrous plot."[4] Recent praise for the film has appeared in an online article by film professor Robert Keser, who writes, "Almost two decades after the release of Clara’s Heart, the film looks dated only in its virtues. As commercial cinema, it represents a classical control and modulation of storytelling, spinning its emotional threads patiently with no hammering close-ups and little pandering to the decoratively picturesque. Equally, the film seems sweetly unconscious of consumer culture that seeks to define us by acquisition and consumption: no brand names are touted, no recreational shopping montages display products to suggest meaning."[5]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Clara's Heart holds a rating of 50% from 16 reviews.[6] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".[7]

References Edit

  1. ^ "Clara's Heart (1988) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Clara's Heart". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Clara's Heart". Chicago Sun-Times.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Clara's Heart". Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ "Clara's Heart (1988) reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 4, 2020.

External links Edit