Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I guess I have some things to say, but I'm not sure how to lead into them. So I guess I'll just narrate the boring cursory parts so I can get to the meaty, good stuff much quicker. Hopefully nobody notices, but, just in case, I'll make these parts blurry and abstract so they think I'm just being artsy and clever.

Brad Pitt is especially disappointing in this movie, as well. I mean, everyone goes to Brad Pitt movies to see Brad Pitt, not some flawed, conflicted, and borderline evil character. Furthermore, he actually has the balls to use his real-life persona to twist and manipulate the audience, revealing bouts of intimidation, evil, and instability behind the cool facade of charm.

Now I need to find a way to praise the cinematography and artistic direction, but, of course, in my sarcastic roundabout way. However, this is tough and I'm just too lazy to actually script this element, so I'll just do it with pretty pictures. Maybe then people will think I'm commentating on the warped storybook nature of the story, but in reality, I'm just being lazy.

Now we're getting to the good stuff, so I can stop narrating for a while.

Like Pitt's Jesse James, Dominik does a fantastic job of showing off his unrestricted manhood by shooting everyone. And everything. For a long time. That just keeps going. Sometimes even minutes after the scene's last line. Often dissolving into the scene. Thereby artificially lengthening the next one, as well. But it's okay. Because it's not excess. It's contemplation. And it's visual poetry (the title is actually a haiku). For nearly three hours. Long.

Even more impressive is Dominik's thoughtfulness. While he does nearly lull us to sleep in the first act of the movie, he makes it nearly insignificant, as we receive all the key information later in the movie anyway, such as Robert Ford's obssession, Dick Liddel's womanizing, Jesse James' charismatic cruelty, Frank James' insignificance, Charlie Ford and Ed Miller's ignorance, as well as the love-hate brotherly dynamic between the whole gang.

This way, once we wake up to Casey Affleck dressing up as Brad Pitt forty minutes into the movie, we'll still be able to catch up and appreciate the rest of the film.

All of these positives, however, are dampened by the film's fatal flaw -- its criticism of celebrity glamorization and obsession, especially in light of death.

I mean, think about it. Let's say some famous person died recently. Do you want to be deprived of worshipping and imitating your precious screen idols? Don't you want to reserve your right to overlook blatant drug abuse? Isn't it satisfying to wildly celebrate a body of work that largely consists of silly period pieces, ridiculous "thrillers", and fluffy romantic comedies? I think not.

It's a shame the film had to overshadow all its good points with its well-constructed, relevant, but depressing theme.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: 6/10

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