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|Index||154 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie as a kid and didn't think much of it. The biggest
thing I remember about it was how long the movie was and the calves'
brains scene. Now, I just saw the film again and it changed my
perspective quite a bit.
The first 1/2 of the movie didn't overwhelm me. Yes, it was good,...but certainly seemed far from great. The scenery was spectacular but rather dull after a while. And, the characters seemed a bit idealized--Elizabeth Taylor's character was sweet and Rock Hudson seemed more and more like a jerk. There didn't seem to be any sort of transcendent message.
However, as the film continued, the plot and characters evolved and you don't see that happen too often in films. While Rock was still a bit of an old fashioned guy, he became more and more decent and likable--culminating with the gut-wrenching scene in the restaurant. Then, when he and Liz were at home and she told him she had never been more proud of him than when he attacked this bully, it really made the movie for me. Its message of racism and change was well worth the VERY long wait.
Taken from the novel by Edna Ferber, whose also bequeathed the screen
Show Boat and Cimarron, Giant certainly lives up to its name. It was
Dean's last film, playing Jet Rink, disaffected field hand turned oil
millionaire. But it's a film packed with other big names too: Hudson,
Taylor, Hopper, Carol Baker, Mineo and McCambridge all appear in a
larger than life melodrama set over several decades. The film manages
to pack in some daring themes too: racial and social intolerance chief
amongst them. In Show Boat, Ferber included miscegenation among the
plot elements. Here it returns, as a Benedict mixed marriage faces
prejudice, while Rink's casual racism is also an issue. Finally,
there's a strong central female character, played by Taylor, who at one
point has the audacity to lecture her men folk on treating her and her
kind like a child - an unexpected moment in conservative American
cinema, to say the least.
Although having been criticised for stodginess (Andrew Sarris once wrote that the director's technique "once looked almost like an official style for national epics.") Stevens' grip on the film is undeniably impressive, managing some splendid set ups. Only occasionally does one feel that a little judicious trimming would have tightened the narrative, notably in some of the dialogue scenes between the married Benedicts, which, though well written, drag on a little too long.
Today one is reminded of the work of Douglas Sirk, another director of the time specialising in big, colour melodrama, also frequently starring Rock Hudson. The difference is that Sirk injects his less grandiose projects with healthy degrees of coded irony, their subversive elements making his films seem all the more modern today. Giant, for all its aforementioned achievements, seems stuck in the 1950s, its radical edge insincere. In Sirk's Written On The Wind for instance, which also deals with oil millionaires, acquisition and wealth is associated with sexual neurosis, in a way entirely absent here. In fact Benedict's massive, casual wealth and ownership is presented as something healthy and natural, its effects only distorting personality when granted to the 'wrong' people (Rink). Stevens is content to show Benedict's huge mansion as a successful center of a cattle empire, a social hub useful and essential. None of Benedict's possessions come to seem hollow or trivial; in fact there is no criticism of his lifestyle at all, overtly or otherwise, apart from some sexual politicking by his feisty young wife. Miscegenation appears as a topic in Sirk's Imitation of Life too, but with none of the tokenism which one suspects here. In Stevens' work, Mrs Benedict (Elsa Cárdenas) sadly speaks few significant words throughout - except to be grateful to her white benefactors, or in running off for their aid. Despite claims on our sympathies, she remains powerless.
Of course, one might go for a long time wishing Giant was the film it is not, as ultimately Stevens views melodrama differently. The finest scenes in his film are those in the first half, where content is most closely married to purpose, and where the trappings of privilege and wealth are still fresh enough to be inspiring. For instance, both the eccentric romancing of Benedict and his headstrong wife to be, and the jealousy of Luz at the new member of the household, are excellently done. Add to this the appearance of Jet Rink, the outsider to the community unexpectedly set to strike it rich, and there is much to enjoy here in scenes revealing emotions frequently as broad and as grand as the country in which they are set.
Unfortunately as Rink grows older, so the film grows progressively less interesting and convincing with him. Dean's forte was as misunderstood teenager, his style amplifying the associated angst to the nth degree. The mumbling and recalcitrant characteristics of his method acting ably reflects back an archetypal youthful alienation. But when trying the same trick as a middle aged Rink, these characteristics are not compatible with a successful businessman, who plainly needs to have 'grown up' to sustain a commercial empire. The result is that the older Rink seems increasingly all at sea, his character collapsing under the weight of its inappropriate quirks, like a table at the conference hall.
As the ageing Benedict. Hudson does a reasonable job, but it's a role which plainly would have suited an actor with greater range, say Spencer Tracy, bringing increasing gravitas, even a sense of tragedy, to his position as the years roll on. Hudson is always watchable, does his best, but still seems the same age throughout, albeit with padded gut and white hair. And with due deference to the efforts of Dennis Hopper too, with hindsight one would rather have seen Sal Mineo given the important role of sensitive younger son, especially as he had worked so well earlier with Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
Most disastrous of all for Giant's final impression are the closing scenes, a bathetic close that clearly shows a project running out of creative steam. A now contented and platitudinous Benedict couple, staring at their two grandchildren, stared at by livestock, ends up being embarrassing. It's not the moving and symbolic conclusion to a grand family saga the makers undoubtedly intended. Once again, Sirk does it better: at the close of All That Heaven Allows handyman-gardener Hudson has a picture-postcard deer too, installed in his back garden. But it's an animal whose appearance owes less to a bogus harmony than to Sirk's sly dig at emotional artificiality, a Christmas card confection of smugness made manifest.
Stevens' work remains Sunday matinée material today, and modern viewers will find much to enjoy in its glossy production values and the range of acting ability on display. But the feeling is that it remains overrated, a lumbering beast whose best time has been and gone, a reminder that dinosaurs were giant too..
GIANT is the tale of a man named Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson), who
visits Maryland one day to look at a horse to bring back to his ranch in
Texas. There he ends up meeting his future wife Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor),
and brings her back to his homeland. At first she has a hard time fitting in
and seeing the ways of Texas--instead of going along with being arrogant,
selfish, and old-fashioned, she tries to help the sick Hispanic servants on
the Benedict land. Leslie and Bick are both set in their ways--Bick just
goes along with believing that these "wetbacks" are no good, while Leslie
believes that they're people too and deserve that right. Also caught up in
this mix is Jett Rink (James Dean), who works for Bick but is disliked by
him. Jett becomes infatuated with Leslie from the beginning, but is
considered only a friend by her and must accept that.
After Jett is given a piece of land through a will, he strikes black gold on it one day and becomes a high-profile billionaire. Meanwhile, Leslie and Bick recover from a brief separation and raise their three kids. Bick is upset because his son (Dennis Hopper) does not want to inherit the Benedict land and continue in that tradition, and Leslie is upset because her daughter Luz (Carroll Baker) wants to attend Texas Tech, a "man's school." Leslie is conforming to the close-minded beliefs of the Texan people. However, when the Benedicts learn of Jett's plan to open a hotel nearby, they go to show him that the Benedicts are doing too badly for themselves either. The tension mounts, boils over, and ultimately comes to a thrilling conclusion.
GIANT, for me, is a mix of good and bad. Maybe I'm biased in that this is a James Dean movie, and I adore him, so maybe I make more allowances for this movie than I would if it didn't star him. Anyway, since I'm from New Mexico myself, I liked the scenery and atmosphere of the film and it gave it a nice familiar feeling for me. The acting is spectacular, as expected--James Dean is fabulous as always, delivering what I consider to be his best performance. Rock Hudson is also wonderful and Liz Taylor really impressed me as Leslie (I loved her character as well). The supporting cast is good as well and everyone seems to hold the film together. The whole subject of racism and sexism was pretty taboo at the time this movie came out--of course now it's much more talked about and less common in that right. I like that this movie was that adventurous and daring in its subject matter.
Now, the bad. This film is much too long. Many of the scenes seem entirely unnecessary altogether. Some of the actors don't do so well in parts, and much of the dialogue is inaudible. I had to turn the closed caption on, in fact! I'm not sure if this is the result of bad technology or just mumbling. The ending was pretty lame, and some scenes are so cheesy and fake that it almost makes me cringe. And most importantly, many parts are rather boring.
Maybe I am just biased, but GIANT is probably held on a higher pedestal than it would be solely because it stars James Dean. He does a great job as usual and the most memorable (and best) scene of the movie focuses on him. (The scene to which I refer is when Jett discovers the oil and runs to the Benedict house, covered in it, to gloat.) And though GIANT has its share of good points, it's not a terrifically great movie. Dean makes it happen. 7/10.
No need to recap plot or echo consensus points. Instead I want to
briefly examine three significant themes that the movie deals with.
These prove especially topical now, even 60-years after the movie's
release. Many film elements may have dated, but the themes haven't.
First, however, a brief background since I remember the movie's initial
splash with fond memories.
Okay, what does a 1950's studio do to get people out of their TV chairs and into a cramped theatre seat. First, they hire two of the biggest stars of the day (Hudson & Taylor), then the fastest rising star (Dean), and a whole troupe of colorful supporting players, plus an established director (Stevens) with a flair for epics. Then they send them all down to the great expanse of southwestern Texas to film locations. For a screenplay, they get well-known Edna Ferber's sprawling account of our then biggest state and adapt it for the Technicolor screen in the brightest hues. Put 'em together and Warner Bros. has a box- office smash that drew folks, especially Dean-soaked teens, into theatres and drive-ins everywhere. Sure, much of the novel appeal has faded over time, while the sometimes dawdling 3-hour runtime seems excessive for today's attention spans. At the same time, the screenplay's cultural significance can be easily overshadowed by these showier parts. Still, the film's loaded with visual appeal and ideas that still resonate.
So, will Bick (Hudson) and Leslie (Taylor) overcome their cultural differences and make a married go of it on his sprawling Texas cattle ranch. After all, she's from the East and clearly of a background that lets her speak her mind. Trouble is, upper class Texas wives are expected to keep their place and hold their tongue. So when Leslie intrudes on a husbands' political parley and calls the men Neanderthals for excluding women, we know Bick's got big adjustments to make. More than thatwe've got a 50's foreshadowing of the feminist movement that would gain real momentum in the 1960's.
But not only is wife Leslie a prophet of feminist ideas, she's an advocate of racial equality. In Texas, that means putting the repressed Mexican-Americans on an equal footing with whites. And that means confronting a more pointed issue than whether wives should speak up. Here, I think, the script fudges some. Leslie is quite insistent on integrating her Latina daughter-in-law (Cardenas) into social occasions, thereby breaking the color line in an obvious way. Nor does she oppose son Jordy's marrying a Mexican-American, unlike Bick and the traditionalists. Clearly, Leslie's character is designed as an agent of change, bringing more modern social values to a traditionally male and race dominated Texas culture.
Now, where I think the screenplay fudges, is by not really showing any overt opposition to Leslie's integrationist ways from Bick's elitist social class. Of course, blue-collar café owner Sarge (Simpson) decks Bick over the issue, thereby signaling that in the conflict between property and equality, property rights (his café) are the priority. On the other hand, Bick's upper class peers are portrayed as going meekly along with Leslie's (and eventually Bick's) integrationist efforts, regardless of what they may be thinking. There could be a number of reasons for the script's finessing this point, but it strikes me as a retreat from an especially significant aspect of a key theme. After all, the elite have all kinds of ways of pressuring Bick besides decking him Sarge-fashion.
The last key theme is not emphasized as much as the other two, but is significantly present, nonetheless. And that is allowing the individual to decide his (or her) own course in life without having it dictated by tradition. Bick would naturally like eldest son Jordy to take over his cattle and oil empire after he passes on. Nothing unusual about that. In fact, the roots go back to that of preserving wealth and power in the middle-ages through inheritance. But Jordy has other ideas, like being a doctor, instead. Bick's not happy about his empire not being passed to Benedict the Third, but maybe one of his son-in-laws will be interested. Except that turns out to be a bigger problem than he thought. Anyway, each family member is portrayed as eventually following his or her desires rather than something imposed. Still, the question of life's chosen path remains an ongoing difficulty regardless of era.
Oddly, the movie's third main character Jett Rink appears uninvolved in any of these underlying themes. Instead, he's driven by his unrequited love for the unobtainable Leslie. But since the actor's the famously eccentric Dean, his movie character can't be someone too conventional. So Rink follows his own quirky beat.
Anyway, seeing the movie again after 60-years was still a visual treat. What I guess grabbed me now are the themes that must have slipped by my first viewing. After all, where else at that time could such big stars as Taylor and Hudson and teen idol Dean be seen in the same feature, along with the vast Texas expanse and those opulent mansion interiors.At the time, these visuals seemed overwhelming and still are entertaining. But then focus does have a way of altering over time, and I guess mine did.
In 1920s, a wealthy Texan cattle rancher (Rock Hudson) travels to East
Coast in order to buy a prize horse. There he meets a woman (Elizabeth
Taylor), the daughter of his soon-to-be business partner, who he ends
up marrying after a quick romance. The movie follows their lives down
in Texas as the seasons change and the old ways begin to give ground to
the new century.
Giant is an epic. It covers years and years of time and deals with all the prominent themes and problems of those decades. Things like oil business, racial issues, societal status, responsibility of the rich to the poor, and so many others, make an appearance and are addressed in turn. Taylor's character is the voice of the new age, while Hudson's is the voice of the old and their interactions are the driving voice of the film.
And it works. It is a very interesting film to follow if you know anything about that particular span of history. The film is over three hours long, and can thus cover a lot of ground and give each subject its due time. Though that can be a problem as well. It is a very slow film, with deliberate, calm pacing. Nothing much really happens most of the time, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that things happen very slowly. Personally I found the film to be perhaps a bit too slow and deliberate, but if old epics are your thing, you'll definitely get what you're looking for.
Giant is to be applauded for its vision. It set out to tell a family saga in its full glory and in that regard it definitely delivers. From modern point of view it can a bit tedious, but I cannot in good faith condemn it for that.
I want to say I've been unable to watch this classic all these years, as the airing times never were on during a time I could watch it. However, last night on TCM the times finally worked out and I viewed the movie from beginning to end. Let me say the cinematography was awesome, and the actors were AMAZING, the entire cast pulled off their roles flawlessly. With that being said, I didn't like a single character in the movie at all. The story was not your typical "I want to be entertained happy ending." As a result the 5 rating I give is only for the actors and cinematography of the piece. I finished watching the movie not liking anyone in it as a character there was not one to identify with morally, intellectually, or emotionally. Had there been one character I liked I would have rated it probably higher.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The two disk DVD, by Warner Brothers, is a pretty good package. Disk
Two has two hour long documentaries on the film, called Memories Of
Giant and Return To Giant. Both are making of films. Both include
interviews with surviving members of the cast and crew, mostly minor
players like the director's son, George Stevens Jr., and actors like
Jane Withers, Earl Holliman, and Carroll Baker, with archival footage
of Hudson. There are several theatrical trailers for the film, a TV
special of the film's New York and Hollywood premieres, and the Gig
Young TV show, Behind The Cameras, about life on the set. Disk One has
the film, broken at its intermission, into two parts, the first of
which is one side one, and the second on side two. There is also an
Introduction to the film by George Stevens, Jr.; a series of interviews
with other filmmakers on their thoughts about George Stevens, as a
filmmaker; and then an audio commentary track by Stevens, Jr., film
critic Stephen Farber, and the film's screenwriter, Ivan Moffat. Of the
three, this bland commentary only has moments of interest when Moffat,
who was actually part of the film's creation, speaks. Steven, Jr. seems
to busy being in awe of his father's work, and Farber just seems happy
to be getting recognized as a film critic. Some good points that pop up
in the commentary (at over three hours in length, even a few chimps
would entertain a few times, eh?) are discussions of why Stevens
abjured Cinemascope, so he could have height in his films, as well as
width, and why the two Luz Benedicts seem to be obsessive over Jett
Giant is not a film that will stick long in one's memory, and it is not a film of any real political nor historical import, despite the claims made by many of the people featured in the bonus features of the DVD. It's a well made soap opera, a grand entertainment that has a few moments, in its sprawl, that stand out. In brief, it is that old saw: a good solid movie that one turns to when down, and in need of relief from reality. It will make a lousy, rainy afternoon a little bit more enjoyable. After all, rain does have its charms, even if little of the wet will quench the soul, much less mind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I knew that this was the last film to star the iconic James Dean before his tragic death at the age of twenty four in a car crash, and it was good to know it was featured in the book of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and besides him it had a great cast list, so I had to see it, from director Oscar winning, and Golden Globe director George Stevens (Swing Time, Gunga Din, Shane, The Greatest Story Ever Told). Basically in the early 1920's in Texas head of the rich Benedict ranching family Jordan 'Bick' Benedict Jr. (Oscar nominated Rock Hudson) goes to buy a stud horse in Maryland, and there he meets and gets close to socialite Leslie Lynnton (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) who was originally to marry diplomat Sir David Karfrey (The Birds' Rod Taylor) but breaks off the engagement to marry Bick. They return the family ranch Reata in Texas to start a family life, Bick's sister Luz (Oscar nominated Mercedes McCambridge) keeps the household in order but resents Leslie and tries to intimidate her, and there is also trouble with Luz's worker Jett Rink (Oscar nominated Dean) hopes to find his own fortune and has secret love for Leslie. Luz dies suddenly after being bucked by the purchased horse War Winds, and in her will Jett is given the plot of land within the Benedict ranch, and he refuses to sell it back to Bick, while Leslie over time gives birth to children, twins Jordan 'Jordy' Benedict III (Dennis Hopper) and Judy (Fran Bennett), and younger daughter Luz II (Carroll Baker). Jett makes his fortune when he discovers oil and drills for it and he boasts about it to the Benedicts, and Bick punches him when making rude sexual remarks and they have a fight as well, and as World War II goes on Bick refuses any offer to drill with Jett and wants to remain a cattle rancher. With the Benedict children grown up they all want to pursue somewhat different paths causing tensions, with Jordy wanting to be a doctor rather than running the ranch, Judy wants to study animal husbandry at Texas Tech rather than attending finishing school in Switzerland, and these decisions made Bick gives in to a deal with Jett to allow oil production on his land to help the war effort. Both Bick and Jett develop problems with alcoholism, and Luz II starts to flirt with Jett, and as expected the family become much wealthier than before, so much so that they can afford a large swimming pool next to the house. The war ends, but the Benedict-Rink rivalry continues, and it gets worse when Luz II is revealed to be dating the older Jett, and Jordy tries to fight him when his Mexican-American wife Juana (Elsa Cárdenas) is given racist insults by the staff Jett employs, but he only ends up getting thrown out. There is a point when Bick wants to end the rivalry with a fistfight, but facing Jett he cannot come to doing it, and Jett just ends up drunk and falling over to sleep, and after the party guests leave Luz II finds him talking to himself about his sexual interests about her mother. The next day the family, apart from Jordy, drive to have a normal dinner without the feeling of a rich lifestyle in a diner, and with proprietor Sarge (Mickey Simpson) racially insulting again directed at an old Mexican man they all end up in a fight, most of the family are disgusted by Bick's behaviour, but Leslie applauds him standing up to bullies and she had some fun for one, and the last few scenes see Bick and Leslie with their grandchildren and reflecting on their family life. Also starring Sal Mineo as Angel Obregón II, Jane Withers as Vashti Snythe, Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley, Judith Evelyn as Mrs. Nancy Lynnton, Paul Fix as Dr. Horace Lynnton, Alexander Scourby as Old Polo, Earl Holliman as 'Bob' Dace and Robert Nichols as Mort 'Pinky' Snythe. Hudson is charming and manly, Taylor is beautiful and sweet, and Dean does well acting and looking older than his real age, I agree one of the best sequences is him striking oil, the film has no plot as such, it is simply seeing the life of a family throughout the years, all their happy moments, their relationships, their important and meaningful decisions, their heartache and traumas, and experiencing all emotions you can think of, it could be seen as a melodrama almost, it is a little long, but an enjoyable epic drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music for Dimitri Tiomkin, Best Writing, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama. Dame Elizabeth Taylor was number 77, and Dean number 64 on The 100 Greatest Movie Stars, Taylor was number 7 on Britain's Finest Actresses, Rock Hudson was number 79, Dean number 27, and Taylor number 13 on The 100 Greatest Sex Symbols, Taylor was number 11 on The 50 Greatest British Actresses, Taylor was number 7 on 100 Years, 100 Stars Women, Dean was number 50 on The World's Greatest Actor, Dean was number 18 on 100 Years, 100 Stars Men, and Dean was number 22 on The 100 Greatest Pop Culture Icons. Very good!
Giant is a racially, historically and visually important film that is
emboldened by the time in which it was made, 1956, smack in the middle
of a decade well known for its superficial luxuries that acted as the
furthest limitations of the communal perception of the American masses,
the movie industry remaining reticent to showcasing anything too close
to reality. Around the same time when another fearless filmmaker named
Otto Preminger was releasing The Man With the Golden Arm, the first
film for Americans to experience about heroin addiction, George Stevens
released this epic, an exposé on degeneration by traditional values,
the blood and guts of the classism, racism, and chauvinism in perhaps
the proudest of America's fifty states, the core of how a regional
community of people had convinced themselves of the justification in
their ways and values and imposed these persuasions on generations and
Rock Hudson, achieving an astonishing embodiment of his role, plays the head of the rich Benedict ranching family of Texas, who as the film opens has gone north to Maryland to buy a stud horse. There he meets the socially prominent knockout who becomes his wife, played by the insatiably beautiful Liz Taylor. They travel to Texas to start their life together on his family ranch, Reata. Reata is a magnificent cinematic creation, as perhaps in a single shot it tells the entire story, sets the tone and atmosphere, and sketches the backstory for its characters: In its establishing shot, we see Reata, a giant, leviathan home that is nonetheless a mere blemish in the middle of the rest of its property, a shameful waste of acres upon acres upon acres of land, left dry, barren, depressing, and hardly used in its entirety. It's a perfect characterization of white privilege and ignorant, overindulged upper crust, and their severe detriment to nature, that which is sugar-coated by just how impressive something like Reata really is.
This 3-hour-and-21-minute-long Technicolor drama incites fury into its audience, making us resent the community it renders. Truly heartbreaking tragedies and infuriating conflicts occur, the said feelings drawn out to a tee by director George Stevens, a painstaking craftsman with a gifted eye for visual arrangement and a receptive, insightful strike home with actors. He captures things like Liz Taylor's horse following her with its crushingly tender and loving eyes after bucking off Rock Hudson's cruel, vindictive sister, a single shot that makes me weep. I have heard of a brilliant actor's director, but Stevens has transcended this term. He gets heartrending performances out of animals! When oil is discovered in a complicated situation involving James Dean's dense but ambitious young character, pushed around by Hudson, Hudson's blood boils. Tensions in the household later revolve around how the parents want to bring up their children.
Really at the core of its intentions, Giant is an epic about the racism against Mexican Americans in Texas, set against the backdrop of how the oil industry transformed the Texas ranchers into the super rich of their generation. When the film begins, Hudson and his sister, played by Mercedes McCambridge (who voiced many of the frightening sounds and freakish fragments coming from Linda Blair's possessed mouth in The Exorcist years later) are racist towards the Mexicans who work on their ranch, which shocks Liz Taylor, who is forbidden to assist the ill and suffering Mexican workers whose living conditions are miserable. By the end of this five o' clock shadow-producing work of genius, however, Hudson has grown just enough to see the wrongs of racism in terms of how it effects his proudly treasured family, which to his dismay has become more ethnically diverse than he ever imagined it would be, and in a surprisingly but earnestly small-scale climactic scene, he finally earns his wife's respect.
It's a portrait of the very kind of person perpetuating the disgrace, injustice and erroneous pride inherited by America. He is a wealthy Southern white man, racist, chauvinist, intractable, and obsessively defensive of his masculinity. However, it shows a slow, unpredictable transformation, or at least a shell of one, as life does nothing more than happen, and the natural process of progression and integration force him to change.
i was raised up in Texas .and i saw the movie giant while i was living there i think the movie was one of the best i have haver seen. so if you don't like this movie then it is obvious you are from the east and have never been west of the Mississippi river this movie is as big as the state of Texas . and the actors and actress's did a great job james dean and rock Hudson and Liz Taylor were great. i think the beauty of the oil wells the landscape the flat land makes it look like the old days in Texas and the oil boom. which did exist at that time. this state of that movie is filmed in from what i understand is not Texas but it sure could have fooled me .
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