Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and ...
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Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and Frank fight back through stampedes, jealousy, betrayal, and sabotage, they eventually find love.Written by
After Ewing is told he will lose his ranch if he doesn't allow testing for oil, Frank and Ella are shown chasing cattle while swinging their ropes...left handed. In the next scene they are shown roping right handed. See more »
I'm a fan of the late Alan J Pakula's naturalist style of direction, low on action but high on character, particularly his earlier contemporary political thrillers "The Parallax View" and of course "All The President's Men" and so came to this low-key out-west drama set during the second world war, (not that you'd know from the storyline itself). With an A-list acting cast boasting James Caan, Jane Fonda & Jason Robards you just know there's going to be a fair bit of intensity on display. In fact Fonda, despite being on screen from pretty much the start takes ages to utter her first line and it's fair to say that the director employs the "say more with less" approach throughout.
The plot, characters and indeed cinematography recall to mind classic films of yore, like Hawks' "Red River", Stevens' "Giant" and even a touch of "Gone With The Wind" with the fire at the conclusion, but the action is a little laboured, with, to these ears slow-talking, drawling dialogue quite often proving fairly difficult to decipher. The camera however picks out some wonderful scenery in natural clear light and throughout there's a sympathetic musical soundtrack adding shading to the pictures up front.
Back to the plot, which is a little melodramatic, I fear, with its casual slaughter of various individuals and depiction of Jason Robards as the smouldering resentful villain of the piece - I found all this much harder to swallow in its mid-40's settings than if it had been set in the old west. Ditto in fact all the other main characters - if it wasn't for the appearance of the oil derricks, light aircraft and contemporary cars, this story could have happily slotted into a mid 1860's time-line.
Of the acting, it's obvious that Pakula is going to get his handsome leading couple romantically involved although when it's done it's at least done without preamble, subverting the romantic courtship ritual of every other western since the year dot. Caan is fine as the strong-willed individual well able to look after himself (he early on dispatches a couple of Robards' thugs in short order in one of the few action scenes in the film), at least willing to consider adapting to the present-day, while Fonda is probably a bit too mannered in her portrayal of the independent single woman being driven to sell up her ranch by a combination of failing resources and Robards' machinations. She overplays occasionally with her eyes acting more than the rest of her, especially when she swears her "Damn your soul" oath against Robards. Robards himself, late of "All The President's Men", of course, does moody and stolid throughout, with sometimes variable results.
In summary then, a slow-moving but reasonably involving tale of the new old-west, which could have stood more enlivening in my opinion.
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