Desert Hearts

Directed By: Donna Deitch Starring: Helen Shaver

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Product Overview

The best-selling lesbian title returns with never-before-seen additional footage!

Desert Hearts ranks as the all-time classic lesbian favorite romantic film - and also stands as the top-grossing lesbian-made lesbian feature of all time (drawing $2.4 million at the box office).

Based on Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart, the movie tells the story of Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver), a repressed English professor who goes to Reno for a quickie divorce in 1959. She spends the weeks waiting for her final divorce papers at a dude ranch where she meets Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a beautiful young casino worker.

Cay is a free spirit - an artist by day and casino worker by night, as well as a lesbian. Her surrogate mother Frances (Audra Lindley in an amazing departure from her comic role in Three's Company) disapproves of her lifestyle, while also craving Cay's affection and attention.

To everyone's surprise, Vivian and Cay hit it off immediately as Cay introduces the shy academic to the wild-west casino scene as well as the breathless beauty of the desert. It's not long before Vivian finds her friendship moving into unexpected passion. And for Cay, it's the first time she has met someone who stirs her deepest emotions.


Studio Wolfe Video
SKU 204339087
UPC 754703762832
UPC 14 00754703762832
Format DVD
Release Date 6/5/2007
Rating Rating
Theatrical Release
Editors Note
Note An east coast English professor travels to Reno intent on dissolving her unfulfilling 12-year marriage and meets up with a fiery yet sensitive lesbian casino worker who forces her to confront emotions she hasn't experienced in years.
Plot Summary
Summary At 35 years of age, literature professor Vivian Bell heads out to Reno for a quickie divorce. But when she gets to Nevada, where she has to wait until her papers come through, a whole new world opens up to Vivian when avowed lesbian Cay Rivers openly begins to seduce her. Vivian at first resists Cay's overtures, but as time goes on, she is forced to admit her attraction.| But as Vivian's days in Nevada come to a close, she faces a quandary: can she actually bring this randy cowgirl into her stodgy, intellectually elite New York life? Or will she have to give up the best love she's ever experienced?
Variety "...[Shaver] does a commendable job....Deitch offers some sound film making..." 08/21/1985
Donna Deitch
Helen Shaver
Cast & Crew
Andra Ankers - Actor
Audra Lindley - Actor
Carol Jefferies, et. al. - Producer
David Brisbin - Art Director
Donna Deitch - Director
Helen Shaver - Actor
Jane Rule - Based On Novel By
Jeannine Claudia Oppewall - Production Designer
Natalie Cooper - Screenplay
Patricia Charbonneau - Actor
Robert Elswit - Cinematographer
Robert Estrin - Editor
Technical Info
Original Release Date 1986
Catalog ID 4436D
UPC 00754703762832
Number of Discs 2
Running Time 94 minutes
Color Color
Original Language English
Available Audio Tracks English
Aspect Ratio
Anamorphic Widescreen  1.85:1
Nominee (1987) Independent Spirit, Patricia Charbonneau, Best Female Lead
Winner (1986) Sundance Film Festival, Donna Deitch, Honorable Mention - Dramatic
Nominee (1986) Sundance Film Festival, Donna Deitch, Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic
ReviewSource Movie House Commentary
Review Desert Hearts is a movie that is well known among devotees of lesbian movies, whatever their motivations. It has enough reality and romance for those who watch for the story, and it has enough nudity for those guys who just like to see women touching each other. It probably ranks with "Personal Best" as the two most famous and influential major movies about lesbians...Frankly, it isn't that good a movie, although I like some things about it. The directing style follows a deliberately picaresque narrative...One thing the two women did quite well was the romance. Their tentative first kiss in the rain and their hesitant love scene were played with a certain clumsy sincerity, played so effectively that those two scenes managed to carry the entire movie, at least as far as it could be carried. I give the film a lot of credit for handling the romance in a natural and sensitive way.
ReviewRating 8
ReviewSource Chicago Sun-Times
Review The movie stars Helen Shaver, an underrated Canadian actress of cool elegance, as Vivian, a professor at Columbia University in New York who travels by train to Reno to get a divorce. Patricia Charbonneau plays Cay, the direct, unabashed woman who falls in love with her at first sight. The third woman in the story is Frances (Audra Lindley), the no-nonsense older woman who runs the guest ranch where would-be divorcees wait out their Nevada residency requirements..."Desert Hearts" was made on a small budget, and this is one film where it didn't help to cut corners. (I have a notion they would have done some scenes over if they'd had the time and money.) The movie makes no large statement; it is not a philosophical exploration of lesbianism, just the story of two women and their attraction. It's not a great movie, but it works on its own terms.
Reviewer Roger Ebert
ReviewRating 7
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1, DVD, Collector's Edition, Widescreen, Dolby, Hi-fi Stereo
Product Attributes
Actor Shaver,Helen
Label Wolfe Video
Music Format DVD
Video Format DVD
Emanuel Levy, ...herladed a new wave of American gay and lesbian independent films.
Find-A-Video Truly a landmark film in its positive and very realistic depiction...warm, expansive performances.
Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice A smooth and sensitive film that convincingly circles around the many different kinds of love...
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Daring, erotic, touching.
The Hollywood Reporter Startlingly intimate and unabashedly erotic.
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