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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Retro Review: Baja Oklahoma (1988)

Baja Oklahoma
Cast: Lesley Ann Warren, Julia Roberts, Peter Coyote, Swoosie Kurtz
Genre: Made- for- TV Movie

Plot: A Southern barmaid juggles her dreams with her off-the-cuff love life 

'Early Julia Roberts Role & Promising Performance In TV Movie That Lacks Sparkle'

Baja Oklahoma isn't by any means a fantastic film; as a cable, made for TV effort, the picture quality isn't that great, the sentimentality can be a little too much, Baja Oklahoma is like Country music - okay country music that is. 

Though it marks as another one of Julia Roberts's earlier on-screen appearances and this one being her second one, following on from her debut in Blood Red alongside her older brother Eric Roberts, Baja Oklahoma is set in Texas and is based on the 1981 novel penned by Dan Jenkins, of whom co-wrote the screenplay and is fronted by Lesley Ann Warren who plays Juanita: a woman who has been used and dumped by a lot of men in her life (and in turn, this has undermined her self-confidence) who works at a bar, scraping a living to support her 18-yr-old daughter, Candi played by Julia Roberts, who is trying to get away and run off with her dope-pushing, troublesome boyfriend named Dove. 

Juanita is on the lookout for love but also has a thirst for fame & dreams of becoming a fully-fledged songwriter, as well as to contend with a high school lover who encourages her to pursue her ambitions. The conception of the story is not very interesting or appealing enough - there are 1 or 2 few good moments worth rewinding, but Julia Roberts is pretty good as Candi and she definitely shows early glimpses of her acting prowess that has set her on the road to stardom, success and popularity, well into her early 30s of the early 2000s. Roberts's performance is far more credible, promising and impressive here than her turns in Satisfaction and Firehouse, yet she did it even better in Steel Magnolias, one year on from Baja Oklahoma, & of which became a much bigger hit.

Lesley Ann Warren's Juanita is the central character, who sees her attempts at securing fame and stardom experience her share of highs and lows; Warren's portrayal avoids the honky-tonk cliches that could've marred the Baja Oklahoma and turned it into a cliched & completely forgettable fest. 

I didn't really care much for some of the music and I thought the profanity was unnecessary to have in this film and just wasn't warranted. The plot of this film reminds me of Coyote Ugly that had a similar-ish premise. Baja Oklahoma is Coyote Ugly meets Country music meets long lost lovers. Unfortunately, though it comes together in some parts, it lacked the sparkle that could've ramped up interest in this romantic drama. 

But for country music fans, as well as Julia Roberts fanatics, this is a treasure trove to add to their collections. 


Pros +

- Seeing a young, adolescent, innocent Julia Roberts in this 

- Is watchable at times 

Cons -

- Film lacks sparkle and energy 

- Story not very interesting

- A bit too much swearing 

Final Verdict:

Baja Oklahoma is amiable and as an HBO TV movie, this is nothing that spectacular to shout about; one would feel shortchanged just by paying money to see it in a movie theater or cinema because it is definitely not a film that would have done well at the box office. But that is not to say it is a really terrible film, as it does have some watchable moments. 

It's worth seeing alone for a young adolescent, Julia Roberts - pre-Pretty Woman fame and if you are a fan of country music and of Lesley-Ann Warren, who are both compelling and convincing as the daughter, Candi and mother, Juanita. 

Overall, if made-for-TV movies are your thing, Baja Oklahoma is worth giving a shot. Just keep your expectations low and don't expect massive fireworks. 


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