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.Written by
DeAlan Wilson www.ComedyE.com
"The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time; it's a state of mind. It's whatever you want it to be. -" Tom Mix
I should have liked the Zellner brothers' Western comedy, Damsel, much better than I did. It has elements of Mel Brooks and the Coen brothers when they mine the satire of a genre very long in the tooth. The difference: writing.
Brooks with his inspired goofiness (Blazing Saddles) and the Coens with their light-hearted larceny (Raising Arizona), have characters using language much smarter than they are, whereas The Zellners' lines are deadpan but dull even though they use elevated diction as the Coens so often do. Using contemporary lingo like "win win" and "real deal" doesn't titillate as it should. In addition, Zellners' language lacks strong affinity with bigger issues.
Samuel (Robert Pattinson), a rich pioneer, engages a sham preacher, Henry (David Zellner), to officiate at Samuel's wedding to Penelope (Mia Wasikowska). In their journey with a miniature horse, gift to Penelope (not the waiting Penelope of the Odyssey), the two must deal with their naiveté and the vagaries of raw Western staples like rot-gut whiskey, duplicitous Indians, and bad campfire ballads (Samuel's ballad to Penelope, called My Honeybun, is a weak companion to Brooks' notorious campfire scene)
While this set-up is rich fodder for satire, most of the jokes fall as flat as Penelope's affect and as dry as the joke about a fool in a barrel being strung up for no obvious reasons. Westerns are ripe for satire, but the flat line here comes not from the fine performances but the tepid minimalist script and uninspired cinematography.
Wasikowska is marvelous as the independent and bitter love interest, Pattinson showing once again that he is much more than a teen heart-throb. The Zellners have the right motif about loneliness; they just need to beef up the languid language and droll action.
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