An aging cowboy movie star deserts a film set and tries to reconnect with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in thirty years, only to learn that he has a child he never knew about.An aging cowboy movie star deserts a film set and tries to reconnect with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in thirty years, only to learn that he has a child he never knew about.An aging cowboy movie star deserts a film set and tries to reconnect with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in thirty years, only to learn that he has a child he never knew about.
A disappointing attempt at gritty Western aura, movie insider savvy, and creative parallel plotting and editing. It has elements of camp, of post-modern drama (references to earlier movies or movie types), and even some genuine sincerity.
There is a terrific George Kennedy, who is still active and very much making movies with his over-sized persona. There are smaller roles by several women, including a wan and frankly dull if pretty Sarah Polley. And mostly there is Sam Shepard being Sam Shepard, which is pretty good stuff. But he plays a famous actor who walks off a cheesy movie shoot into reality, and for the rest of the movie is walking as if in a dream through a reality he never quite knew existed.
I think this looked great on paper. At least until someone read the script. It just doesn't hold water, partly for the simple fact that we couldn't care less about most of these folk. In particular, the movie makers, the directors and execs are playing meaningless roles that might mean something to insiders, but to the rest of us (I'm not an insider, thankfully), it's self-indulgent and, well, boring.
What works best? Well, since the story pushes you out you look at the performances straight up, and some, like Shepard's, are strong (he reminds me of Woody Harrelson in this film, for some reason). There's the music (by T-Bone Burnett), an often used electric guitar sound with a country twang that is appealing and sometimes even evocative. And there is the filming, which is unadorned and very nice, depending on some amazing scenes, and the light and color in them. If there is ever an Oscar for scouting, for period sets that hype up the truth of a certain period, this is a good candidate. Certainly the light is romantically appealing.
But I'm stretching to see the best in a plodding film that had potential and lost its velocity very early on.
It has to be added that the director, Wim Wenders, has done some amazing work, and has his own following. But he might be trying to cash in on "Paris, Texas" which has its own small cult following, and which at least has a quirky and disturbing element to it. Here it is mostly a matter of wandering in the modern wilderness, and Wenders, I really believe, is not quite in touch with what makes America America. It feels cold and superficial. See his "Wings of Desire" for a masterpiece. Here? Have patience. Oh...and enjoy the scenery!
- Aug 12, 2010