|Index||9 reviews in total|
Cliff Robertson has always been one of the hugely underrated actors of stage, TV & film. Anyone who saw his original performance in Days of Wine & Roses on Playhouse 90(with Piper Laurie) or saw him doing Tennessee Williams on Broadway knows that this is someone who for whatever reasons missed out on the major stardom that was his natural due. J.W. Coop is one more surprise from Mr. Robertson. This movie is the closest approximation I've ever seen on the screen to a Hemingway story. It's full of the rich true details of place and incident, and the aching pain of the fighter/cowboy/soldier/man rubbing up against life, trying to make some kind of mark, some kind of sense, before his end comes, & it always comes too soon for these guys.
This hard to get, modern western is definitely one of the best film by Mr. Robertson, a fine, underrated actor and director. J.W. Coop, gives a realistic and honest view of a lonesome, luckless but brave man, an ex-con who tries and fails in the rodeo world and is also an underdog in life. Simple, brilliant story with Robertson's flawless acting matched by the late, grand Geraldine Page (as his mom). A fine cameo by the great character actor, R.G. Armstrong, and for the eye, there's the beautiful Cristina Ferrare who disappeared from films to marry Mr. John DeLorean (if somebody remembers the car in Back to the Future films.) So, catch it if you can!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cliff Robertson who was four years away from his Oscar winning
performance in Charly, wrote, produced, directed and starred in this
independent film that Columbia Pictures released, J.W. Coop. For the
most part he produced a really gritty picture of life on the rodeo
J.W. Coop is a driven man. A promising rodeo cowboy for some youthful indiscretions he did an almost 10 year prison stretch where he did keep his rodeo skills honed in penal rodeo competition. He's out now, determined to make it back and pick up the promising career he abruptly left.
Of course 1962 to 1972 were years of seismic cultural shifts in America so Coop's in for quite a few surprises. I particularly like the scene with the officious highway patrolman who writes him a ticket for the bad emissions and lack of muffler on the 49 Hudson he was driving. It belonged to his father and Geraldine Page his Mom had just kept in the garage.
Lots of changes in social behavior as well. Robertson falls for Cristina Ferrare a hippie chick who's just out for a good time. Big sexual revolution in the sixties that he missed out on.
Of course the big scene is Robertson who is number 2 in the standings and winner of a lot of prize money gets back on a brahma bull AFTER he's broken his leg and he rides it while in a cast. Sheer unadulterated craziness as his doctor tries to tell him. But he's determined to be number one. That ending shot after the bull has thrown him and he's probably now permanently injured of Robertson sitting by the fence of an empty rodeo arena is unforgettable.
It makes no sense to most of us, but being in your early thirties in rodeo would make you a Methuselah. Just check the cowboys ages if you happen to be watching rodeo. Robertson knows this might be his last shot. But he should have settled for second.
J.W. Coop is a fine look at rodeo and belongs right up there with films like The Lusty Men and 8 Seconds as a realistic look at rodeo life.
Excellent story about a cowpoke who wants to be the number one rider in the nation. He worked hard at it, and made his name well known on the circuit, even getting to the point of acquiring his own airplane. A good look at the rodeo from behind the scenes. Near the end was a very graphic scene of a cowboy caught up in the harness of a raging bull. I heard it was not a setup take, but was real footage from a rodeo. I know it made me cringe to watch it. 4 stars.
Growing up in the Mid_West, the concept of `art' film was quite foreign to
me in 1971. The first time I saw J.W. Coop, it struck me like a thunderbolt.
Lots of ambin' around, reaction shots, quiet confidence, pseudo-documentary
style, unspoken sub text
A labor love for Cliff Robertson, JW COOP is an indie-like movie developed in the 1970's studio system, where titles like POSEIDON ADVENTURE and TOWERING INFERNO were the only things that made sense at the time.
As a result, studio-type compromises are evident throughout--Christina Ferrare is atrocious as the hippie-chick who interjects JW's dust covered mind-set to the present. I'm certain the original script-by Gary Cartwright and the ingenious Bud Shrake was likely funnier and edgier.
What's left is still engaging, and the rest of the supporting cast is solid, the story interesting--spiced with wonderful little vignettes throughout. I highly recommend.
just reading the blurb and knowing that Cliff Robertson was a part of
the film was enough for me to know that this was going to be a gem
[although Robertson has made some horrible movies]. I got a pal of mine
at work to run me a copy [grainy], and it surpassed my expectations.
This film increased my resolve to attend rodeo school. Because it was
something I always wanted and at forty-one years of age and never
having ridden a horse I gave my wife and daughter a kiss and piled in
my car for Georgia and the time of my life. Why rodeo? In the words of
the author of RODEO: the Suicide Circuit, because it is the last place
in these hard times where a man with nothing can meet it head on on his
own *#*# terms and maybe do something. JW Coop conveys this perfectly.
But this movie is not simply about rodeo. Like the film, the SAND
PEBBLES, a man is trying to translate his existence into something
meaningful. It is about a nobody going after the only thing in his life
that makes sense. Just writing about it gets my blood up.
Some would disagree with the ending, but I can see it no other way. If you want to see a movie about a man going after life this is one film sure to satisfy. I give JW COOP a three star [out of four] and it stands as one of my favorites.
Actor Cliff Robertson’s clout after his Oscar win in CHARLY (1968)
allowed this personal venture which he wrote, produced and directed as
well as starred in; the film, though much admired in some circles and
certainly well-made, is essentially dreary and somewhat overlong for
its purpose. Incidentally, rodeo is not a subject which has been
treated often by Hollywood: a couple more notable efforts were Nicholas
Ray’s rare but highly regarded THE LUSTY MEN (1952) – which I recently
acquired but have yet to watch – and Sam Peckinpah’s contemporaneous
and better-known JUNIOR BONNER (1972).
Anyway, the titular figure is an enthusiast of the sport who wants to pick up where he left off following a 10-year stint in jail for fraud; after a pathetic reunion with his senile mother (a cameo, despite her second billing, by a disheveled Geraldine Page), he sets off to seek a prominent spot in the National Finals. This entails a series of contests across the country – he starts off by hitching rides to each destination, then borrows a van (through a friend) from a military base but, after scoring a number of successes and winning a pile of money, he can afford to fly the rest of the way.
Robertson meets spirited young hippie Cristina Ferrare; following the initial distrust (being a middle-aged uneducated cowboy himself, they have virtually nothing in common), he comes to appreciate her devoted presence by his side – however, when he finally proposes marriage, she quits him. Coop’s biggest rival is a brash stud half his age whose wealth is able to keep him well ahead of the game (getting to the various rodeo venues by way of a private plane). Still, our hero perseveres – but his dream seems to come to an end when he breaks a leg; undaunted, he decides to mount a particularly wild bull…but his triumph this time around is short-lived and he’s gored by the testy animal!
Robertson elicits fine performances all around and shows great feeling for small-town America – as well as passion for his central theme (which isn’t so much about achieving one’s goals no matter what, as how this often rings hollow when all one has to show for it is loneliness). A nice folksy score supplies the perfect accompaniment to the film’s attractive photography – offsetting the generally downbeat tone and the occasional instance of self-conscious direction (such as the use of abrupt zooms or Coop’s slow-motion last ride). Equally agreeable are its sparse moments of humor – namely the cowboy’s ironic home address, 1313 Luck Road, requested by an apologetic cop when he’s forced to give him a ticket (Coop’s driving his late father’s ‘smoking’ broken-down car) and the incident in the diner’s lavatory where rednecks attack the hero’s black pal but, even outnumbered, they beat up their assailants and, when the cops arrive, Robertson justifies the mess by claiming the locals had been making “weird advances”!
Cliff Robertson co-wrote, co-produced, directed and stars in this unassuming rodeo drama-cum-character study, a movie he personally financed for distribution through Columbia Pictures by keeping costs down and paying most of his actors scale. It's a handsome, occasionally laconic piece of work, crisp and not dawdling, helped immeasurably by Frank Stanley's sometimes good-sometimes brilliant cinematography. The star of a Texas prison rodeo, having just served 10 years in the jug for writing bad checks, is paroled and hits the rodeo circuit, where he works his way up to second-best cowboy (just behind an airplane-chauffeured hotshot who barely has to break a sweat to be number one). Robertson directs himself very well--it is one of his finest performances--though the same can't be said for many of the supporting players, many of whom are real-life rodeo performers portraying themselves. An air of detached amateurism coats the project, with much of the background and sideline action coming off as needless, over-the-top, or just plain sloppy. Still, when Robertson zeros in on a sequence--such as a rough fist-fight in a men's washroom or an idyllic getaway for Coop and his hippie girlfriend--the results can be stunningly effective. Robertson is contemplative and unafraid to allow curious scenes to run their course; Geraldine Page, as Coop's mother, has just one long sequence that doesn't appear to do much for the picture, yet Robertson finds the rhythm in the dialogue and eventually gets to the meditative payoff. I'm not quite sure what the final scene is meant to say, except that "a loner is a lonely man"...still, the artiness which underlines the film's climax is a bit alienating. It doesn't make for a big night at the movies. ** from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cliff Robertson set out to make two films in J.W. Coop (he worked on
the screenplay as well as directed and starred), but in this case his
effort winds up as only half a good movie.
He starts with an interesting premise -- a former rodeo cowboy emerges from prison c.1970, tries to pick up where he left off, and finds that both society and the rodeo game have moved on. The first half of the film is pretty good, dealing with J.W.'s efforts to adjust to his senile mama (Geraldine Page) and to a society where "the kids, the commies, and the unions" (so says one character) are ruining the country.
But when J.W. actually starts rodeoing, the picture shifts to an underdog-making-good-in-a-cutthroat-world scenario, as the old cowboy becomes an unlikely dark-horse contender for the national rodeo championship (competing against a younger rider with more corporate savvy). The ending of the film is unsatisfying and leaves us feeling incomplete -- there's more story to be told, but Robertson leaves us to feel sorry for a guy who, frankly, is not beaten down so much by "the establishment" as by his own pride.
Also unsatisfying is Page's role in the film. She appears in one scene toward the beginning of the movie, and then she disappears. Maybe that's reality, but art provides the opportunity to inject more of her story and her relationship with J.W. into the film. That opportunity is missed. We do learn some more about J.W.'s family as the film progresses, but there's no closure on his mom-and-pop issues, although I suppose one could argue that the lack of parental comfort has something to do with the end of the movie.
Robertson the actor is pretty darned good in this film, capturing J.W.'s initial bewilderment, suspicion and frustration with the '70s, and later his delight at having gained the love of a younger woman (Christina Ferrare). And Robertson the director has a nice eye for small towns and "the sticks" (there's a scene at a rural crossroads that's beautifully shot). But he's undercut by Robertson the screenwriter -- it's just difficult to buy J.W. as a contender for a major championship right out of prison (even if he has been rodeoing successfully there). And the film bites off more than it can chew in trying to comment both on social change and the rodeo life. This could have been a far stronger movie if it concentrated on one or the other -- and, to be honest, the encounter of a '50s guy with the early '70s was the far more interesting part of the film.
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