Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Assasination of Jesse James

The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007) [6]
Dominik's film is visually stunning and has some very nice moments that are highly reminiscent of McCabe & Mrs. Miller or a film by Terrence Malick. Too bad the rest of the film never lives up to the lofty visual and conceptual standards Dominik yearns to achieve. This clearly wants to be a majestic, epic film and the visuals help it but it's the story structure and the performances that let it down. I wasn't impressed at all by any performances, especially Pitt who plays Jesses James with an almost complete lack of anything. A lot has been made of Casey Affleck's performance as Robert Ford but I'm not buying it. The film plays up his immaturity and his idolization of the legend of Jesse James but to me he comes across as a whiny little twerp who did what he did because he got picked on too much. I don't want it to seem like I'm stealing from Sicinski but he calls Ford "Mark David Chapman with a six-gun" and that was the same comparison I was thinking of while watching the film. Asides from the misguided performances, the story structure really falls flat because of Dominik's ambitions. He tries to tell it both ways: as an epic, historical epic with Ken Burns-like narration but also throws in more introspective, meditative moments a la Malick. By playing everything so close to history, the film becomes clunky, and at times, too plain long. If Dominik would have loosened up the film a little bit, get inside these character's heads a little more, it would have been a more interesting film. The tells a lot without really getting inside any of it. The visual execution of the film only makes it more like a museum piece to be looked at and not really meant to get inside of. If we're going with art analogies, this could have benefited from being a little more abstract. Plus, the epilogue is entirely too long and really unnecessary. All being said, this isn't a terrible film and Dominik has enough craft to create a film that looks great but has some glaring deficiencies.

1 comment:

Dory said...

Well said.