Oh my. I can't even begin to tell you how powerful this movie is. But the funny thing is, all I ever hear about is "the choice" moment.
Let me tell you, there was so much more to this movie than "the choice" I don't think the rest of the movie gets enough credit. Don't get me wrong, that moment is powerful - terribly so.
Meryl Streep deserves all the praise she gets from this movie. The range of the character in this piece is so impressive. I don't really know how I feel about it because you are watching something that you know is great, you are concious of it being great, but there are also moments when you lose yourself in the moment, then look back and know it is great. I guess it is a matter of choice which you like better. Either way, she's great. I don't think Kevin Kline gets nearly enough credit for his performance. That character really drew me. He's so magnetic in the portrayal of this character, and that is the way it should be. He's perfumed in charm and spirit, but its those cracks in the character's mind that really present a challange (at least, I would think so) and he is fantastic. He is frightening - and you not only feel for the people he is hurting, but once you understand, you feel for him as well. But honestly, the bad parts aside, this man is a knight in shining armor for Sophie - and it is so easy to see why they need each other. Peter MacNicol is a wonderful experiencer, which is really what he is - especially to the audience. Again, a wonderful middle-man. He's also a wonderful southerner - obvious, but not too cliche, which makes Kline's impressions of him work in the context that he is giving them. I mean, in the first one you see this low, cheap mocking, but then when he does it again it is jovial and friendly. You couldn't make that work if the person was at all off in their characterization of a southerner. Also, the character has this real warmth about him - a gallant chivalry mixed with the innocence of a young man, that is so endearing.
I love the flashbacks during the war - not the content, but the style in which they are presented. Everything is flushed out and there is no color and the world is so cold. It just sets the right tone for what you are seeing.
Something I like in this movie, which I rarely like in most films is the sex of it. I'm not talking the romance, but the sex. And I think the reason why it works here is that #1: there is some romance in the sex - and #2: it says something about the people. It expresses are need that has to be filled. It is a motivation, an escape, and a reason. Most films that have these scenes don't take this into consideration, and sex becomes a cheap tool for box office draw. Sophie's Choice is different. I think it is also because the narrator explains all of this in a most touching way.
I highly suggest watching the documentary after seeing the film. It helps explain some things and really opens your eyes to some depths.
As far as recognition goes, the film was nomiated for several Oscars. Streep won for her performance (well deserved). It is on AFI's more recent Top 100 list and was hailed by critcs everywhere.
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars