Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Open Range

posted by rkumar
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Profanity:A few strong words
Nudity/Sex:Reference to whore, some passionate kisses
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking and cigars, chewing tobacco
Violence/Scariness:Very intense shoot-outs, characters killed
Diversity Issues:All characters white, reference to hating Indians, strong woman
Movie Release Date:2003
A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: A few strong words
Nudity/Sex: Reference to whore, some passionate kisses
Alcohol/Drugs: Drinking and cigars, chewing tobacco
Violence/Scariness: Very intense shoot-outs, characters killed
Diversity Issues: All characters white, reference to hating Indians, strong woman
Movie Release Date: 2003

“Open Range” is an old-fashioned western that takes its time, but by the end of the movie the cattle, the characters, and the audience are all where they need to be.

That is, assuming that there is an audience for a western that is not post-modern, ironic, or elegaic. Given the distance from the era of the big westerns and the current feelings of global and economic fragility, it may be time for some cowboy heroes again.

After all, there is no better icon of the American spirit than the cowboy. When we think of emblematic American figures, we don’t think of those guys in the powdered wigs and silk breeches arguing about the Bill of Rights. We think of the guy on the horse, pausing to look off into the horizon as he crosses the prairie, the rugged individual in search of manifest destiny with his own deeply felt sense of justice and freedom. It is impossible not to be stirred by the sight of men on sun-dappled horses cantering across the prairie under an endless blue sky.

That does not mean that these characters are not complex or that they don’t deal with complex issues. One thing this movie does well is showing us the way individuals struggle with the past and try to set a course for the future in a land where new physical and social structures are being created by people who came out west to get away from both. As one says, “A man can get lost out here. Forget that there’s people and things that ain’t as simple as this.”

Stories set in the old west are like those set in a submarine; they fascinate us because they take a group of people with no access to established civilization and give them a conflict to resolve.

Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Kevin Costner, who also directed) are decent men who respect the decency in each other. They have worked together for ten years, driving cattle across the prairie. They do not know much of the details of each other’s pasts, but they know everything about each other’s character, and that suits them. Also working for Boss are Mose (Abraham Benrubi of television’s “ER”) and Button (Diego Luna), a teenager he took in as a young orphan.

They come to an area they have been through before, but something has changed. A man named Baxter (Michael Gambon) now owns the land and most of the town, and he does not want cattle grazing on his land. The law is no help — Baxter owns the whole town, including the sheriff. The nearest federal marshall is too far away to arrive in time to make a difference. Boss, Charley, and Baxter will have to sort it out themselves. When Baxter’s men come after Mose and Button, Boss and Charley have to respond, not for their cattle or their fortunes, but because they cannot allow anyone to bully them. They believe that “There’s some things that gnaw at a man worse than dying,” but must still think carefully about past choices and regrets in calibrating a response.

Members of the town are drawn into the conflict, including stable manager (Michael Jeter) and a doctor with a strong, brave sister (Annette Benning). Ultimately, there is a terrible conflict, but one that has been honestly earned by the characters and the story-tellers. The same can be said of the ultimate resolution.

Costner the director does well by his actors, particularly Duvall, and the shoot-out is tense and kinetic. The dialogue feels authentically old without being stilted. Today’s audiences may get squirmy in the slow early stretches, but those who are patient will be rewarded with a respectful saga that pays tribute to America’s past as a foundation for its future.

Parents should know that the movie has intense shoot-out violence and characters are killed, but most of the violence is closer to a PG-13 than an R. There is some strong language, including a brief reference to a whore. Characters drink and smoke.

Families who see this movie should talk about how conflicts get resolved in an isolated setting like this one. Why was it important for Boss and Charley to tell each other their names and some of their histories? What does it mean not to take a man’s confidence lightly? How did Baxter, Boss, and Charley justify their choices? It also might be worth discussing Balzac’s famous view that “Behind every great fortune is a crime.” Where are the descendants of Baxter and Charley today?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy loving tributes to the classic westerns, Silverado, also starring Costner, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And every family should watch some of the classics, including Red River, The Searchers, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Shane, and the best of the shoot-out at the OK Corral movies, My Darling Clementine, starring Henry Fonda, Walter Brennan, and Victor Mature.

Previous Posts

Contest: Reading Rainbow DVD -- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow present four classic episodes on this new DVD from PBS Kids. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie read by Beth Howland, ...

posted 3:49:25pm May. 29, 2015 | read full post »

The New Yorker's Actress Profiles: Tilda Swinton, Angela Bassett, Katharine Hepburn, and More
The New Yorker has created a section with some of its best profiles of actresses, including Angela Bassett, Julia Roberts, Diane Keaton, Tilda Swinton, and Katharine Hepburn. They are a treat to read and will inspire you to check out or revisit ...

posted 8:00:38am May. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip: Wish You Well
[jwvideo vid='sTOlso40' pid='GvkPWNBE'] Ellen Burstyn, Mackenzie Foy, and Josh Lucas star in Wish You Well, a coming-of-age tale based on the best-selling novel by David Baldacci, who also wrote the screenplay. Foy plays 12-year-old Louisa, ...

posted 10:24:09pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

San Andreas
Another summer blockbuster-by-the-numbers, another dad who needs redemption and re-connection with his family, and the only way he can get ...

posted 5:55:26pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Aloha
Writer/director Cameron Crowe presents us with an attractive and talented but messy and compromised hero in "Aloha," and asks us to root ...

posted 5:37:27pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.