Cross Creek starts out like it might be some kind of melodramatic, sub-Hallmark Hall of Fame staging of The Great Gatsby. But as it gets its footing in the unstable terrain of the Florida swamps, it starts to approach more of an earthy Southern epic -- something similar in scope to the Elizabethan costume dramas the heroine (Mary Steenburgen) unsuccessfully tries to publish. The film is still underpinned by a certain naïveté and fancifulness, but for the right crowd, it's an effectively romantic look at a woman who finds herself amid a gothic setting and an unlikely smattering of reclusive neighbors. Steenburgen's performance is not always strong -- in fact, there are certain scenes where she behaves so differently than she did in the previous one, it almost feels like she's joking. But she's such a sweet and likeable central figure that the audience really feels her triumphs and failures. As the man seeking her attentions, Peter Coyote employs generous doses of his Kevin Costner-like charm, and Rip Torn, always an interesting performer, makes the most of a backwoods hick who achieves greater complexity than he'd have in lesser hands. Cross Creek is also worth seeing for one of the first cinematic appearances by the superlative Alfre Woodard, who finds herself in a similar role of propping up an underwritten character: that of Geechee, the cleaning woman who keeps Kinnan Rawlings in check. The performance earned her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.