No movie illustrates film folks' infatuation with the written word more than the accurate, intelligent, and magnificent-looking, yet unentertaining art Western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," in which Brad Pitt plays the celebrated outlaw and Casey Affleck (Ben's brother) is the sniveling young protégé who shot him in the back of the head in 1882. Writer-director Andrew Dominik has filmed the most faithful adaptation imaginable of Ron Hansen's eloquent and obsessively researched but interminable 1983 historical novel. In Hansen's vast portrait of the "old, weird
," we learn, for example, that Jesse was 5'8" and 155 pounds while his battle-axe mother was 6'0" and 228 pounds. America
Dominik's impressive but dolorous effort about the
Missourimurderers seems modeled on Terrence Malick's remarkable 1973 movie " Badlands" recounting Charles Starkweather's nearby 1959 crime spree. Unfortunately, its dirge-like pacing makes it more reminiscent of Malick's excruciatingly slow 2005 version of the Pocahontas tale, "The New World."
Still, while Malick was stuck with the pseudo-star Colin Farrell to play Captain John Smith, Dominik at least has a genuine matinee idol to portray his American legend. I suspect that Brad Pitt's career goal has always been to become a respected character actor like, say, Paul Giamatti. But cruel nature has condemned him to be a famous leading man. So he's best cast as a glamorous psychopath, such as Tyler Durden in "Fight Club," Achilles in "
," and now as the intuitive, mercurial gunman Jesse James. ... Troy
A few days after Jesse James's death, Oscar Wilde visited his house in
, which was being pulled apart by "relic hunters." He marveled, "The Americans are certainly great hero worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes," which hasn't changed much in our age of The Sopranos and gangsta rap. St. Joseph
October 6, 2007
Finally, an excerpt from a review of a new movie (and a formidable one, too), from the October 22, 2007 issue of The American Conservative: