A rich but lonely woman, Frances Austen, one day invites a homeless young man from a nearby park to her apartment and offers to let him live there. However, she has no intention of ever letting him leave again.
Set in winter in the Old West. Charismatic but dumb John McCabe arrives in a young Pacific Northwest town to set up a whorehouse/tavern. The shrewd Mrs. Miller, a professional madam, arrives soon after construction begins. She offers to use her experience to help McCabe run his business, while sharing in the profits. The whorehouse thrives and McCabe and Mrs. Miller draw closer, despite their conflicting intelligences and philosophies. Soon, however, the mining deposits in the town attract the attention of a major corporation, which wants to buy out McCabe along with the rest. He refuses, and his decision has major repercussions for him, Mrs. Miller, and the town.Written by
John J. Magee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A slight rant in place of a typical review, so bear with me. I'm somewhat amused by those that seem to think this version of the Old West is somehow the most real. They believe that the west was a place that was dark, rainy, and muddy all the time. One can't deny the influence Altman's film has had on westerns since. So many have shot their westerns to mimic this supposed reality. The comparisons typically go "old westerns didn't have it right but Altman does. His is the most authentic picture of life in the Old West." Really? So life in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, California, etc. matched that of rainy Vancouver? This is ridiculous.
Here's what's real: this movie takes place in the pacific northwest and is shot in Canada. To say Altman is fictionally portraying a small previously unexplored part of Old West history is fine. But to take it a step further and say this is representative of the Old West as a whole or even a majority is blatantly false. Furthermore, to use this as a tool to degrade older western movies, which actually did take place and were filmed in proper western US locations, is dishonest. Sorry but this sort of thing has always bugged me. I'm not a big fan of the visual of the Canadian westerns even though I have enjoyed quite a few of them as films. It's an artistic choice for these filmmakers to choose to shoot there because the weather is depressing and the stories usually follow suit. It's also a business choice because it has been so much cheaper to film there for decades. But let's not say it's because of historical accuracy when it isn't.
Anyway, as to this film's merits. I won't bother to cover ground others have covered. It's an enjoyable movie, artistically speaking, though not much fun and you're left at the end with a "what was the point" type of feeling. It's definitely not a strong narrative. The story is paper thin. If you're coming to this hoping to see some of what you expect from the two stars, you'll probably be disappointed. Warren Beatty is not his usual sexy, funny, charming self. Hidden away behind a beard and spending about half the movie mumbling like Popeye, none of the personality Beatty exhibited in most of his more famous films comes through. Julie Christie is a great beauty but here she's deliberately "uglied up" so as to add to the film's perceived authenticity.
It's a revisionist western and a good one. I would just like some of the pretentiousness to be checked at the door. Not for all tastes.
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