Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

09 March 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, dir. Andrew Dominik (2007)

NIKKI says:
I'd been anticipating this film for some time, and worried that I'd perhaps built it up so far in my mind that it couldn't live up to my expectations.

I expected epic filmmaking, grand scenery, a leisurely paced story that might remind me of Tombstone or Unforgiven. I wanted suspense, history, scarred characters, and a harsh American landscape.

And, you know what? It was all there. It was pretty much exactly as I'd pictured it. The photography was probably more than I anticipated, which worked in my favour, too.

So, basically, it's a story of obsession. Obsession with people and legend, but also with affirmation and heroism, and the need to feel worth something. The film did well to really develop these conflicts within Robert Ford. The early stages of the film show us the lively fanboy who lapdogs around Jesse James. But once in Jesse's camp, Bob finds things aren't like they are in the nickelbooks. Jesse, the man, is conflicted himself, not always personable, not particularly heroic. Bob's view of Jesse alters so much that he discovers a way to use Jesse's legend to secure his own.

That Robert Ford goes down in history as a coward is rather unfortunate considering Jesse's means of taking care of business -- beating kids, pistol-whipping lowly train conductors, and, what do you know, shooting his friends in the back.

It's a complex story, always compelling, with some genuinely amazing moments, such as the dinner table argument midway through when Bob is teased for his James Gang fandom. Also, Nick Cave's bar scene, and Jesse's visit to Ed Miller who he learns is conspiring against him.

The performances were great, too. Casey Affleck just proves himself so much in this film. His performance is majestic. Brad was a bit Usual Brad -- doing that laugh and stuff. But still, in the tense moments, he was great, too. Sam Rockwell was a stand out for me. Watching him trying so hard not to look guilty in every scene from the dinner table argument to Jesse's eventual death is just wrenching, and horribly suspenseful.

I just really enjoyed it, and I think it deserved greater representation at the Oscars this year.


STEVE says:
I have to admit, I agree with pretty much everything Nikki said. Yet The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was something of a disappointment for me.

There were times when I started looking at my watch, thinking, "Do we need this?" There were long stretches where the film strayed away from either Jesse James or Robert Ford, such as the bit where Dick Liddel and Wood Hite visit Hite's family home and Liddel ends up bedding his stepmother. Granted, this comes back around, so it was a plot point upon which other things hinged, but it could have been cut back some.

And then there's the ending. Act Three starts on Palm Sunday, the day before Jesse is killed. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, there's a little wrap up, and then... It's one year later. Bob and his brother Charlie are now re-enacting the killing on stage, night after night, to a crowded theatre. And Charlie kills himself, and Bob gets drunk, and Bob gets in a bar fight, and Bob meets a woman, and on and on and on until Bob is killed by someone who - like himself - was just seeking fame and glory.

If the aftermath of the assassination was so important, maybe shooting Jesse should have been the midpoint, rather than stuffing up the last ten minutes of what was otherwise a pretty good film.


No comments: