This film suffers from the treatment given to it by Joyce Eliason and its director, Peter Werner. It's clear that such a massive novel has to be trimmed to its bare essentials, and it shows in the 90 minutes of film it was given.
Michael Mulvaney has a rude awakening from his suburban-sitcom family life when his daughter, Marianne, is raped at the school prom by one of the jocks that happened to be the son of one of the most influential person in town. His wife Corinne Mulvaney, instead of facing reality and be supportive of the daughter, turns away from her, the same way her father Michael does. Corinne is a cold woman, we don't particularly like her because of the role she takes in the tragedy. Corinne takes the attitude of not speaking about the incident with the rest of her children, trying perhaps to shelter them from the truth.
Marianne is the butt of cruel jokes in school where everybody knows what really happened to her. Whatever friends she had, instead of being compassionate, they take the jock's side and Marianne has to be exiled to an aunt's house in a nearby town. Thus, this tragedy begins.
We watch as the once popular Mulvaneys begin to fall out of grace in their close knitted community, losing most of their money, the farm, and as a family, they start to unravel. Nothing will make them go back to their glory days. The biggest toll is on the father, who becomes a drunk; he deserts the family, who is left alone to fend for themselves. They will reunite at the end, but after it's too late to make amends and save the family.
Beau Bridges, as the patriarch, is excellent. This is an under estimated actor who is so versatile, he tends to lose himself from one film to the next. Blythe Danner, on the other hand, is not quite the mother we expected to see. Perhaps with the direction given to her, she makes us not appreciate the nuance with which she plays this character.
The real surprise was Tammy Blanchard who played Marianne. At the beginning she is a shy, perhaps sheltered girl who through no fault of her own is made into a victim because of that same naivite quality we see in her. Ms Blanchard makes a beautiful and sweet Marianne.