Saturday, December 20, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A friend recommended this one; Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James, and Casey Affleck was nominated for the supporting-actor Oscar for his portrayal of Robert Ford, the young man who became part of the James gang and ultimately betrayed the famous outlaw.

It's a beautifully filmed piece (it also got a nomination for best cinematography), and the performances of Pitt and Affleck, among others, are indeed worthy. Ultimately, though, I didn't care about the characters, the kiss of death in a movie that runs 2 hours, 39 minutes.

Part of the problem is the leisurely pace of the movie. As an old radio guy, I eventually became distracted by the dead air that you could drive semitrucks through. Pitt especially, but all of the actors, did not carry on conversations. One would speak, and the other would listen, allow the words to sink in, mull what would be the best way to respond (or dart their eyes about in fear of saying anything) and then finally, finally, finally say something. Then the other would listen, allow the words to sink in, etc. After a while it was no longer the outlaw Jesse James on screen, or the coward Robert Ford — it was The Oscar-wannabe Actor Brad Pitt and The Oscar-nominated Actor Casey Affleck showing off their chops.

A good editor could probably knock this puppy under 2 hours without breaking a sweat.

I didn't hate The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford; they are compelling performances and a cracking good story, Grommit. Great music and a cool cameo by Nick Cave. Soaringly beautiful landscapes. I just didn't need them to take almost three hours to tell the story.



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