Sep 22, 2008


I read a good review of this Western by Ed Harris and there I go, looking forward to see him and Viggo Mortensen (good guys) and Jeremy Irons (bad guy) duke it out in the Wild West. The movie is mildly entertaining, for the most part because Harris and Mortensen are great together. They are two sheriffs for hire who act like an old married couple and their intimacy and rapport are palpable. They are both excellent. Ed Harris is very convincing dealing with the bad guys and he also shows a sweet comedic streak as a guy who is ruthless with the meanies but clueless with women. Mortensen is his patient, silent, smarter sidekick and he gives a lovely, quiet performance. The few words he speaks, however, I had trouble understanding, maybe because he mumbles or because in general the sound was bad. They show the previews at ear splitting sound and then the movie you can barely hear.
Both Ed and Viggo were made to be in Westerns. They are handsome and rugged and totally believable. Jeremy Irons is too, looking tan and trim, but I thought he was either unfocussed (his American accent no great shakes), or underused.
Renee Zellwegger shows up as a charming but almost predatory woman, who is not a paragon of virtue. It is an interesting female role, not the usual virtuous frontier woman, but a widow that needs male protection and she gets it by sleeping around with whomever may be the best candidate to give it to her. She is a good foil to Harris' unblemished goodness, kind of a nice femme fatale. Zellwegger is a very good comedienne, but there is something unlikable about her. It seems like she had been to the plastic surgeon too recently, because her cheeks are so inflated, her eyes look like little slits. It is heartbreaking to see actresses fuck up their faces like that. It is also distracting.
Although it feels rambling and uneven, Appaloosa is enjoyable fluff, which is interesting for a Western. This would be more refreshing if the comedy was not so broad and if the movie made its points with more rigor, more conviction.
Pet peeve:
They go to this Mexican town and it's almost like a cartoon. The jail has a sign that says "La Cárcel". It should be just "Cárcel", just like in English it wouldn't say "The Jail". It would just say "Jail". The church has a sign that says "Iglesia de Nuestra Señora", which means Church of Our Lady. Our Lady of What? Guadalupe? Lourdes? Tamales? At this point, with so many Spanish speaking professionals in the United States, these things continue happening (in advertising, in publishing, in movies).
I get a feeling they're all asking advice from the same janitor. It drives me crazy.

We got some focus grouping sheets of paper to fill out at the end of the movie.
You have to write down the three scenes you liked the most. I wonder what is this useful for? Do they get an average and based on that they take away scenes? I think focus groups are satanic, but I dutifully answered all the questions except that one, where I asked them to stop focus grouping movies.

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