Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey [1988]

Sigourney Weaver more than earned her Oscar nomination for Best Actress in Gorillas in the Mist, dominating every frame of Michael Apted's biopic about primatologist Dian Fossey. Tenderly mothering an orphaned gorilla infant or terrorizing an African poacher with a staged lynching, the statuesque star is never less than fiercely focused, a glamorous warrior for animal rights. As the amateur scientist who researched and spotlighted Rwanda's endangered mountain gorillas in National Geographic, Weaver is the passionate heart that keeps an otherwise flaccid film alive--whether bracing anthropologist Louis Leakey to forcibly offer her services as census-taker of the mountain gorillas; or hanging out with the noble animals until she becomes the first person on record to make friendly physical contact with them; or waging sometimes-physical war on natives and Europeans who decimate the gorillas for trophies or zoo fodder. Unfortunately, the film's stodgy script and direction simply document Fossey's magnificent obsession, offering no insight into what lonely impulse of the soul led this extraordinary woman to climb up an African mountain to bond so strongly with gorillas. Cardboard characters include an eternally smiling, sexless African soulmate (John Omirah Miluwi), a perfect boyfriend (Bryan Brown) who has to be dumped in favor of gorilla-love, and stereotypical villains. Still, the African scenery is spectacular, and who can resist the cross-species thrill when the huge dark hand of Digit, Fossey's favorite, first rests in her outstretched palm? Gorillas in the Mist will please those who savor Sigourney Weaver's Amazonian fervor and the pure fire of her physical and spiritual passion--and harbor a slightly misanthropic fondness for liaisons between beauties and beasts. --Kathleen Murphy

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