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Flesh and Bone More at IMDbPro »

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33 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

High Plains Vendor

Author: rrichr from Berkeley, CA
29 April 2003

I've been thankful for many things during the strange journey that has been my life. Among them was that I had never seen nor heard of Gwyneth Paltrow before seeing Steven Kloves' unsung, too-often trashed work, Flesh and Bone. Although this film has been deemed unwatchable by some; primarily, I suspect, by those who simply cannot deal with Meg Ryan in any form, Flesh and Bone is entirely watchable and often engrossing.

I stumbled onto it by accident one afternoon, when the film I had paid to see suffered a projector crash, leaving me to wander the nearly empty multiplex at my leisure. Flesh and Bone, said the sign over the door. Hmm. supernatural thriller with voodoo elements? Well, not really, although the scene that greeted me as I entered: a very scary-looking James Caan, with shotgun, skulking through a shadowy interior, made me think my initial assessment had been close (I had entered its theater a few minutes after the film had started.) Just a few more minutes passed before I realized that I was in the presence of something, at the least, unusual. First, considerable time elapsed without Dennis Quaid flashing his '55 DeSoto grille grin even once. In fact, he was scowling like all getout. Meg Ryan barely smiled either and it was well into the film before she first flipped her hair (while talking about pickles). Very strange. Being something of a sucker for films that cast against type, I was getting pulled in. But WHO was the spooky chick who kept walking in and out of various scenes, shoplifting something in almost each case?

That was Gwyneth, of course. If she had played the role of the deeply alienated Ginnie later in her career, she certainly could have pulled it off, but the mystery of her character, the thing that made you try to imagine the circumstances that had created such a creature, would never have manifested. It just would have been Gwynnie playing Ginnie. I'll be honest, I've remained immune to the whole Gwyneth thing. To me, she's something like Gouda cheese; certainly edible, but best if you're in the mood for a snack with somewhat more aroma than flavor. I admit that I've always dug her Mom, Blythe Danner, among the most delicately fair of all cinematic flowers. But I loved Gwyneth Paltrow in this film, still do, and always will. I don't think she stole the show, as some seem to, but her perfectly-played Ginnie was absolutely essential to it.

The rather default brutality that lurks in Flesh and Bone could seem artificial, but against the historical backdrop of Texas, where it is set, the film's slant makes sense. Texas history has been drenched in blood and tragedy from the start; Cabeza De Vaca, the lonely, ignominous demise of the LaSalle expedition, which foundered and was swallowed up on its Gulf Coast in an attempt to navigate the Mississippi northward, conflict with Spain and Mexico, the Comanche terror, the slaughter of its vast buffalo herds, its rape by oil and cattle culture, Texas politicians (just hitting a few high spots). Merely passing through the state can give one the sense that a loose black hole is about, not a massive one, but big enough.

Flesh and Bone is a promenade of the gravitationally doomed. Everyone in the film seems to be drifting toward the event horizon of an unseen singularity, just beginning to be stretched out of shape. Closest to oblivion is James Caan's chilling Roy Sweeney, a character in the mold of Christopher Walken's very bad dad in At Close Range but chicken-fried to the brink of carbonization; a man for whom conscience is no longer even a concept. Plunging close behind is his son Arliss (Quaid), someone who, after matriculating under his father's brutal tutelage, has become an exile to his own life. His flickering soul is not quite dead yet, but give it time. Meg Ryan's Kay Davies, the unknowing survivor, as an infant, of the film's opening horror, is a type of gently tragic heroine one can see anywhere, but most often in the South, the most culturally monolithic and unforgiving region of an unforgiving America. (Texas is the West but also, most certainly, the South.) Free-form and fundamentally cheerful personalities like Kay's may not always fare well there, unless legitimized by kids and a ring; something her character is beginning to understand as she pops, drunk, out of a paper cake at a roadhouse hoo-rah. Paltrow's Ginnie is possibly the most recent gravitational captive, but she has entered the plunge with cryogenic conviction, forming a binary dark star with Caan's character.

I liked this little film enough to collect it and have never regretted it. There is real psychological texture, a noiresque sense of doom, convincing intimacy set against a vast West Texas backdrop, a house haunted by ghosts living and dead, a brief, poignant performance by the never-failing Scott Wilson, a great score by the brilliant Thomas Newman (I started watching the TV series Boston Public just to hear its opening theme music, which he composed) and a closing scene as mythic as that of any cowboy classic. The film's conclusion flirts a bit with improbability but still works because, dear friends, karma does exist. It's not just a hippie word. Leave the Anti-Megs to their own gravitational plunge and enjoy.

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25 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Underrated Gem

Author: carnivalofsouls from Australia
17 April 2002

"Flesh and Bone" remains to be one of the great films of the nineties, sitting alongside "Bright Angel" as one of the decade's most tragically neglected classics. Perhaps the fact it contains such a high degree of subtlety was why it wasn't appreciated when it was first released, the most frequently stated criticism being that its climax is dramatically unsatisfying, yet its somber ending works perfectly. Outside of "Hurlyburly" it is unquestionably Meg Ryan's finest performance, the same going for Quaid who gives his character a quiet desperation that becomes quite devastating by the end. Caan is great as always, but it is Paltrow who really impresses, playing a role bereft of the sugary sweetness that plagued the majority of her roles that followed. Scott Wilson also shines in a small but memorable role. "Flesh and Bone" may never receive the attention it deserves, which is a shame because it is unquestionably a lyrical masterpiece, beautifully shot and acted, recalling those low-key gems of the seventies like "The Rain People". Highly recommended.

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19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

What's up with the 5's

10/10
Author: hughman55 from Texas
22 August 2010

Once in a while you come across someone who is a little odd, or haunted, or unsociable, or all of the above, and you wonder to yourself how they might have gotten that way. What made them that way? Why are they so terminally sad? Steve Koves has brought us the back story to those questions. His script and handling of the story are stellar. This is not a happy film. But it is a fascinating one.

Everyone in this cast is at their best. But it is Dennis Quaid, who gives the best performance of his ample career, that breaths this story to life, or, death, as it were. He plays Arliss. Arliss has a nickel and dime vending machine business that takes him through the most desolate parts of Texas. His work is so lowly that he doesn't even handle paper money. Coins and dyed chickens are his stock and trade. He pours himself into his boring work as if he is trying to take his mind off of something. Something unpleasant. We know what that something is from the opening of the movie. What unfolds now is the picture of what a destroyed life looks like as it tries to outrun it's past. Quaid is brilliant at creating a haunted and wounded Arliss without making him pathetic. He is the obscure guy you might run across unexpectedly that makes you go, hmmm, what happened to him.

There is nothing about this film that isn't first rate. I am mystified by it's "average" rating here on this site. I suppose if you hate good scripts, skillful directing, brilliant performances, and haunting sound and cinematography, I guess I could see giving this movie a 5. It is certainly possible not to like this type of film. But it is negligent, as a viewer, not to acknowledge it's quality. It is an excellent piece of film making and Dennis Quaid shows just what a brilliant and understated actor he is. James Caan, Meg Ryan, and Gwyneth Paltrow are also up to Quaids level here. I highly recommend this movie. It's different. It's interesting. It's engrossing. And it's brilliantly done.

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Haunting and lovely

Author: Amy Adler from Toledo, Ohio
16 August 2003

Arlis (Dennis Quaid) is a vending machine owner who roams from town to town in West Texas. Greatly disturbed by horrific memories from his childhood, Arlis fails to connect with the women he meets. He prefers trysts with married women where no strings are attached. All of this changes the day Arlis meets Kay (Meg Ryan). Running away from an abusive and spendthrift husband, Kay encounters Arlis in a bar under amusing circumstances. Soon after, she is traveling with him on his circuit and they are falling in love. Bliss, however, is short. Arlis' evil father (James Caan) re-enters the life of his son and Arlis must once again suffer the consequences of the ties that bind them. Will it be possible for Arlis to break free from his past and begin a new life with Kay?

This is, truly, one of the most haunting films ever made. The story is a multi-faceted study of the nature of good and evil. Quaid and Ryan give such depth to their doomed and complex characters that the viewer stays mesmerized as the story unfolds. Caan, too, is a wonder as the bad-to-the-bone father. As for the sweeping and lovely cinematography, it perfectly realizes the beauty and desolation that is west Texas. The final scenes are guaranteed to put a lump in anyone's throat, tears included. Recommended highly for discriminating movie fans everywhere.

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20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

"Flesh and Bone," an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise...

10/10
Author: Judy Bevers (judybevers@aol.com)
2 July 2000

"Flesh and Bone," with it's superb actors and their portrayals of an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise while solving a crime mystery and telling a cowboy's love story.

Haunted by his childhood, Arlis, so realistically portrayed by Dennis Quaid, reveals to us what being a cowboy is about. Running his business across West Texas with his memories, his devil on his heels, Arlis triumphs and beats his flesh and bone genetics. His double star-crossed love for the same child and woman unfolds as the story is told and he becomes a lonesome hero worthy of his lone star.

Gwyneth Paltrow's acting talents can be seen as she makes you believe she is Ginnie, a waiflike con seemingly devoid of any feelings other than borderline necrophilia and spiteful nastiness.

James Caan, as Roy, is Arlis' cruel father and Ginnie's old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather lover. Caan plays the the villain of both the past and the present with a calculated coldness that literally makes his eyes sparkle. (Watch for it!) Roy will make you ever thankful for the your own father who raised you, and your respect for and understanding of his son Arlis grows with the movie.

Meg Ryan makes us want to embrace Kay, the drunken but lovely cake dancer caught in an abusive marriage but who falls in love with cowboy Arlis. Ryan works her magic portraying Kay as a gentle, sometimes-intelligent, sometimes-naive soul who has been down on her luck since a fateful night before her first birthday but who still manages to smile at the world and believe in hope.

Caan's and Paltrow's characters, people who we pray we never meet, come off with a game playing realness that makes us remember why we lock our doors in our motel rooms and our homes. This uneasiness is balanced by the empathy we have for Ryan's and Quaid's good to the bone characters.

Never has a cowboy's love been better explained than in Dennis Quaid's face in the final moments of the film.

Four four-star performances by four top actor, this overlooked movie will become a classic someday in the near future.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

An underrated classic

9/10
Author: jackstanley from London, England
4 January 2006

Perhaps some people only want to see Meg Ryan in romantic comedies, or perhaps IMDb voters give this a low average rating because 'nothing happens', but look beneath the surface and you will find a dark and haunting drama of the first order, with the best work from all involved for many years before or since.

Steve Kloves, completely 'miscast' as the adaptive screenwriter for the Harry Potter films (he writes in American, for heaven's sake) here produces a great original work as a writer/director, utilizing some amazing visuals from Phillipe Rousselot (d.o.p.) and music from Thomas Newman (a score suitably subtle, haunting and moving). Caan, Ryan and a pre-fame Gwyneth Paltrow are all on top form but the real star here is Dennis Quaid, whose face, a canvas of tortured memories and struggling decency, says more than Kloves could ever hope to write. As director he chooses wisely; he gives Quaid a single line, then keeps the camera rolling.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Classic Film Noir

9/10
Author: rbirge-1 from Coventry, CT, USA
17 June 2007

You will never see Meg Ryan in a role like this. She was phenomenal and it is unfortunate she did not get more roles like this. Dennis Quaid and Gwyneth Paltrow were also excellent and these three make the film worth watching. James Caan is fine, but his role is so one- dimensional that no actor can do much with it, and indeed he didn't.

This film is a must see because of the characters. The plot is compelling and very dark, but the characters shine through and illuminate each other in a way that is unique because each character has dimensions that are not explained. Paltrow's character seems like a throwaway, but may be the most important of all. If I were teaching a course on film, I would select this one and ask the students to explain why it works. I usually think I know why a film is excellent, and yet after this film ended, I knew I could not put it into words. The purpose of this review is to suggest you watch this one if you get a chance because you may love it. Most who watched this movie were pleased but unenthusiastic. This film is much, much better than the 6.2 rating it had when I checked.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

"Flesh and Bone," an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise...

10/10
Author: Judy Bevers (judybevers@aol.com) from Santa Fe, New Mexico
2 July 2000

"Flesh and Bone," with it's superb actors and superb portrayals of an artistically told story in the Texas Outback, gives us a cultural peek at ways of life we would probably not encounter otherwise while solving a crime mystery and telling a cowboy's love story.

Haunted by his childhood, Arlis, so realistically portrayed by Dennis Quaid, reveals to us what being a cowboy is about. Running his business across West Texas with his memories, his devil on his heels, Arlis' triumphs and beats genetics. His double star-crossed love for the same child and woman unfolds as the story is told and he becomes a lonesome hero worthy of his lone star.

Gwyneth Paltrow's acting talents can be seen as she makes you believe she is Ginnie, a waifish con seemingly devoid of any feelings other than perhaps borderline necrophilia and spiteful nastiness.

James Caan, as Roy, is Arlis' cruel father and Ginnie's old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather lover. Caan plays the the villain of both the past and the present with a calculated coldness that literally makes his eyes sparkle. (Watch for it!) Roy will make you ever thankful for the your own father who raised you, and your respect for and understanding of his son Roy grows with the movie.

Meg Ryan makes us want to embrace Kay, the drunken but lovely cake dancer caught in an abusive marriage but who falls in love with cowboy Arlis. Ryan works her magic portraying Kay as a gentle, sometimes-intelligent, sometimes-naive soul who has been down on her luck since a fateful night before her first birthday but who still manages to smile at the world and believe in hope.

Caan's and Paltrow's characters, people who we pray we never meet, come off with a game playing realness that makes us remember why we lock our doors in our motel rooms and our homes. This uneasiness is balanced by the empathy we have for Ryan's and Quaid's good to the bone characters.

Never has a cowboy's love been better explained than in Dennis Quaid's face in the final moments of the film.

Four four-star performances by four top actor, this overlooked movie will become a classic someday in the near future.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Why I Liked This Movie

Author: Grace Johnson from Missouri
26 July 2004

A friend gave me this tape a few weeks ago, it did not have a cover and I had never heard of it. I was surprised to see who starred in it. Meg Ryan is one of my favorite actresses. She did a real good job of making this part come alive. But I still think the biggest surprise was seeing James Caan play a role without any feeling. He really was evil in this role and was believable as this person. The movie itself really makes you think that whatever you do will eventually come back to haunt you no matter what you do. I also liked Gwyneth Paltrow in the role of a thief, but I wished that I knew why she did the things that she did. And why she would stay with a man that was pure evil. I guess that is what makes the movie so thought provoking. I'm glad that a friend gave this to me to watch, because if I had seen the title I would have thought it was a horror movie. I have since talked other friends into watching it and all have liked it. I would recommend this movie to anyone.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

It ain't my face the boys want to see.

7/10
Author: lastliberal from United States
27 May 2007

This is not a film where everything appears obvious. It is dark and complicated. It is about how the past haunts you and affects your life in the present. It is the stuff that Freud would have fun dealing with.

The stars in this film give performances that are among the best in their careers.

Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Far From Heaven) is clearly the lead in this picture as the son of a soulless murderer and thief (James Caan). He carries the devil with him through his life and it affects his relationships with women. He runs into an abused housewife (Meg Ryan, in a non-romantic role), and they travel the back-roads of Texas together. Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakesphere in Love) is a thief that plays Caan's companion, even if he is old enough to be her grandfather.

This is written and directed by the Oscar nominated (Wonder Boys) writer of all of the Harry Potter movies, Steve Kloves. He does a fabulous job.

Definitely a movie to watch when you get a chance.

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