The MichaelVox Movie Review Weblog
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March 1, 2008
San Jose Cinequest Film Festival
Drama / Western
Jim Comas Cole
Oh boy. Let's see. Overwrought. Proud of itself. Look-at-me artsy shades of brown palette. Oh yeah, and perhaps the least subtle soundtrack I may have ever heard.
But let's find some good here. Ok. All of the actors were first-rate. We have six of them and I look forward to whatever they do from now on. There is a father, his second wife, and his two sons. And the dad's best friend is the sheriff of the town whose own beautiful daughter has just returned to live for the summer. One son is good with the ladies, works a ranch, and rides broncos in a rodeo. The younger son is either mildly retarded, or lives in such a dark shadow of the other brother that he never gets to speak. The father and his wife are very cute together and obviously love their sons.
The sheriff is nervous around his sexually blossoming daughter and we're never told why she went to live with her mother or even why she chose to return for the summer.
Again, the Sheriff and the Father are such good pals that we see them patching a roof together and sharing dinner several times. This closeness makes the ending ridiculous. But not so fast.
The daughter sleeps with the cocky brother and is saddened to learn that he's also seeing other women. The father has a secret about accidentally shooting his own young brother when they were kids. The sheriff might have something in his past with his ex-wife that he doesn't verbalize. Everyone has a secret, but none of them were compelling enough for me to want to know what that secret was.
Brothers will compete for the love of Abby, who is played by a former model named Julia Jones who must be at least partially Native American and is gorgeous enough to make this film almost bearable. It is so rare to see an Indian female as a love interest who doesn't need to be saved by the white man.
And by the way, a huge prairie fire is heading towards their homes. And a mountain cliff where three priests were thrown off by Natives is in the background of most shots and has mythical status in the town. So there's that.
Here's the issue. The director decided to use a washed out color scheme which reminded me of nothing as much as last summer's "300" where everything in the background was brown. Daytime or night, the background was brown. Sunny or cloudy or smokey, the screen was brown. This was used to harken back to old westerns but it just made we wonder when Xerxes was going to attack.
But the music, holy crap, the music. When there is a fumbling sex scene in a pickup truck my seat was vibrating from the war path drums that were shooting out of the speakers along with howling that was supposed to sound southwestern. There was scoring that hit me over the head so loudly that I couldn't hear what the characters were saying. There's a chance that the mix wasn't yet completed, but even quieter, the choices in background music were soap-opera subtle. When the fire comes near, the music swells, when there's a bar fight, the music swells. When any combination of lovers hug, the music swells.
There is also a strange late-scene edit between a 19-year-old girl kissing her father a bit too familiarly on the lips and a 19-year-old boy sitting in a bathtub being washed by his mother. Not sure what was going on there. The girl sexualized every man? Besides her crush on both brothers, we hadn't seen proof of that previously. The boy was being babied by his mother? Perhaps. But it's a whole other issue to be given a bath once you're past draft age.
Listen, it's clear that Mr. Cole can place a camera, edit a scene, and work with actors. I'll probably see whatever he does next. But this was a bit of a mess, though in true film festival fashion, much of the audience heaped praise on this thing like John Ford himself had directed it.