Whew, I don't think I've ever watched and reviewed something this quickly. xD But I’ve been wanting to see this one in its entirety for a long time and what better occasion than today being LOWCW and The National Day of the Cowboy?
(Stopping for a moment to let all that sink in.)
Ok, let’s do this thing and get started, shall we? Here goes.
For the official summary: "Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and his cowhands Charley (Kevin Costner) and Mose (Abraham Benrubi) are driving cattle across a large expanse of country. When Mose ventures into a sparse village to buy a few necessities, he is met with violent hostility from Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), an affluent landowner, and his right-hand man, Poole (James Russo). When Mose doesn't come back, Boss and Charley realize he's in trouble, so they plot to get him back and get revenge on those who captured him."
(Hmmm. Well, that wasn't as comprehensive a summary as I'd hoped. Suffice to say, there are other sub-threads in the plot, but I don't wanna spill too many beans on that, so I'll let you have the delights of discovering them for yourself.)
I was worried about some of the lines being a bit contrived at the beginning + the whole little Blind Man's Buff moment, but I think that may all grow on me over time, and it’s also a nice reminder that daily life has always been daily life, full of all the little things.
Button's and Mose’s characters are sweet and well done.
Mr. Woodhouse does a quite adequately intimidating job as the arch-villain.
As for the stars of the piece, Charley and Boss play off each other brilliantly.
Boss is grizzled with experience and slightly garrulous. Charley is strong and silent, struggling with his inner demons.
Both have their rough edges. And both have their irreverent moments, particularly in one scene early on, where they’re struggling to understand why things have to happen the way they do in this fallen world.
Both are rigorously honest.
I love how they take turns leading in different pinch moments in their different areas of expertise. I also like how there’s never any sort of ridiculous blow-up between them. Little disagreements, and a bicker here and there, yes, but no irremediable, solely-added-for-extra-drama blow-ups. The bad guys are running amok and our heroes are going to solve this thing back to back.
I like how they show that toughness and gentleness and vulnerability and strength are not mutually exclusive. It’s a story about found family and tight friendship and a glimpse of what real manhood with a backbone looks like.
There is action and excitement, but all throughout it’s about making the small things epic. And that's one of the reasons I love westerns in the first place, but this one really does it exceptionally well. This afternoon I was studying it some more and noticing how the pacing of the story echoes the very feel of the wide open land: with the excitement tingling way deep down -- growing bigger and grander every minute -- yet rooting your feet to the ground, making you want to just stand and think and think and think and breathe till your lungs burst.
Back to the plot, I feel like their process of outwitting the bad guys was pretty original, as well as the final moments of the shootout. Speaking of which, I thought it very neat how they showed the aftermath (which I understand was very much done on purpose).
This is also a random note, but the doctor has a limp and, along with a few other little things popping up, got me thinking how I love good stories that don’t spill everything, reminding us there are any number of other interesting stories springing off our current one.
I’m still a little confused by the flow of the ending, but maybe that'll sort itself out as I keep thinking on it. I have heard some people complain about the romance, but honestly, I think it flows pretty seamlessly through the whole thing, at least until you get down to the scene between Sue and Charley right after the shootout. The segue into there did seem rather awkward (and I know this is the movies), but again that’s how real life is sometimes -- awkward with imperfect timing.
There’s quite a smattering of language and altogether I’d say not for small fry. That said, apart from the language, it has less blood and less iffy-ish, awkward situations than Tombstone, for instance. Around the 1:22:50 mark a man does see a woman through an accidentally cracked door in her corsets, but they're thoroughly decent corsets and nothing follows. In this case, apart from the language (which, near as I can recall, is old school cuss words) I think the rating makes it sound way scarier than it is.
Now that I’ve hopefully acquitted myself with full impartiality on all the above, I’m gonna pull out the stops a bit. Because with beautiful, sweeping cinematography, this setting has it in spades. The landscape is STUNNING Y’ALL! *heart eyes* I’m swept away by all the gooooorgeousness. It’s incredible, amazing -- almost everything I love about western land rolled into one. <3333 (And I love all the pouring water.)
Going back to the story, there are little gems of humor and real sweetness scattered throughout. There’s so much quiet character development: between Charley and Boss's friendship, and the growing father/son dynamic between Boss and Button, and the attraction and growing love between Charley and Sue…. Eeeeeeesh. It’s just so gentle and deep and good.
Men are manly and women stand strong – speaking for peace, yes, but also encouraging their men to take the enemy.
And when it comes to the romance, I love how it’s not soppy at the end. It’s romance that orients the man back to his mission.
I want to see it at least once more before deciding exactly which spot it's appropriated (ha! who am I fooling? y'all know I'm terrible at making such definitive decisions), but this really has got it all -- all the reasons I love westerns -- and, endearing and breathtaking all at once, it's somersaulted onto my top ten list.
I'd love to hear if you've seen it and your thoughts!