It's the Wild West, circa 1870. Samuel Alabaster, an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope. As his group traverses the west, the once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel.
As Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) travels across the American Frontier, on a journey to marry the love he has always looked for, Penelope (Mia Wasikowski), life becomes more and more dangerous. Accompanied by his miniature horse, Butterscotch, and drunkard companion, Parson Henry (David Zellner), the lines between hero, villain and damsel in distress become more and more blurred in this comic reinvention of the classic western movie.
The type of Western that you could see the Coen Brothers putting their name behind, Damsel is further proof that there's life in the age-old genre yet as filmmaking duo David and Nathan Zellner take us on a darkly comedic trip to the wild west.
It's not to say Damsel is a roaring success, as its slowly paced and rather emotion-free experience is often far too ponderous and cold for its own good, but the twisting, turning and non-conforming tale the Zellner's have created is an odd beast that is sure to find its fair share of fans amongst the many likely detractors.
Filmed in the eye-capturing surrounds of the American wilds, Damsel is a pretty sight indeed that's anchored by creative actors Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson, as the two young lovers reunite after years apart, as the Zellner's take us on a zany journey through a time and place that was filled with more than its fair portion of colourful and cuckoo characters, all on a quest to find meaning and purpose in a harsh unforgiving land, filled with much promise and even more dreaming.
We never really get much of a backstory or foundation of where Wasikowska's competent Penelope or where Pattinson's more dim-witted but well-meaning Samuel Alabaster come from or what shaped them into the people they are as we meet them but it's quite clear we can gather Samuel has been on some type of journey (with a miniature pony in tow), it's just a shame we couldn't get to partake in any of it, as the Zellner's choose not to relay any of this in Damsel's near two hour run-time.
It's a runtime that at times draws to a near halt as the story at the heart of it flows rather slowly and despite the good work of Wasikowska and Pattinson, Damsel struggles to maintain an energy and vibe to keep it going and you do wish that someone like the aforementioned Coen Brothers could've lead the charge here as Damsel feels as though it had the potential to be quite special.
There's brief moments where darkly attuned humour and hilarious encounters (Adams apple comparisons and town hangings) happen throughout Damsel, while David Zellner's side character Parson Henry and other oddball creations add spark to proceedings at certain times but it's not enough to enlighten the film as a whole as you feel as though Damsel missed the opportunity to maximize its unique tale.
Final Say -
Damsel is a curious entry into the western genre with some nice moments of black humor and well-staged strange happenings but overall the Zellner's film ends up being a rather forgettable feature.
2 ½ miniature ponies out of 5
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