[Willa Cather]'s 1913 novel is a little slower in pace than "Sarah," which was based on a children's book, and [Jessica Lange] does not appear until almost halfway through the story when young Alexandra Bergson approaches middle age.
Like the hardy and determined character she plays, Jessica Lange is also a child of the land. Born in little Cloquet (pop. 9,000), Minn., the granddaughter of farmers, she still owns a 120-acre farm there and visits relatives when she takes her three children to what she still calls "home." She drew on those roots when she produced and starred in "Country," the 1984 film that told the story of a couple struggling to save their farm from foreclosure. Lange's heroine then, like Cather's Bergson, was a determined woman unwilling to give up the land.
By the time Lange appears in "O Pioneers!," the story has jumped two decades and Alexandra Bergson has become the mistress of a thriving farm. By then, the sod house on the prairie has been replaced by an imposing two-story farmhouse rising out of the plains. It is, Lange said, "very, very true to the novel."
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