Sunday, October 5, 2008

Movie Review: The Proposition

I was listening to NPR the other day and...yes, AGAIN. I realize I do that a lot. I start many, many sentences with that phrase. ANYWAY. Fresh Air had an interview with Nick Cave. I adore Nick Cave. "Where The Wild Roses Grow" is the most romantic song you'll ever hear about a bludgeoning. And he was talking about his new cd and the score he'd composed for The Assassination of Jesse James and it was all terribly interesting and he has a lovely accent so it was very pleasant-sounding. And then he got to talking about the movie The Proposition, for which he'd written the screenplay AND the score. The movie sounded pretty great and also familiar. Then I remembered that I'd actually purchased the dvd a while ago during a Blockbuster binge brought on by a gift card (I loathe Blockbuster. I usually only go there if someone gives me a gift card.) and had never watched it. Oops. Well, I scurried home and remedied this straight away.

AWESOME MOVIE, YOU GUYS. The Proposition, a western set in the Australian Outback (Why aren't there more of these?) is a vivid, violent film. It was depressing as hell, so naturally I loved it. Guy Pearce (Who I love, why isn't he more famous? He's a great actor and HOT. THOSE CHEEKBONES.) plays Charlie Burns, a member of the outlaw Burns gang who is captured along with his younger brother Mikey by Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone) for the murder of the entire Hopkins family, including the pregnant Eliza. Captain Stanley offers Charlie a deal: he'll pardon him and Mikey if Charlie tracks down his older brother Arthur (Danny Huston) and kills him. If Charlie refuses, Mikey will be hanged. Apparently, Stanley wants an example made of the violent Arthur and what's worse than being brought down by your own brother?

Pearce plays Charlie with exhaustion and dead eyes, his angular face appearing cadaverous. Charlie left Arthur's gang and took Mikey with after the Hopkins murders and he doesn't seem to have much hope that this mission is going to go any better than anything else ever has. The kid who plays Mikey, Richard Wilson, does a beautiful job and broke my heart. Mikey is very, very young, about 14 years old and is completely terrified and frantic without either of his brothers, imprisoned with everyone blaming him for the murders. It...doesn't go well for him, let's put it that way. Danny Huston plays Arthur with an odd kind of good humor. (Doesn't Huston ALWAYS do that? He always plays a brigand of some sort, usually pleasant but also terrifying.) Arthur loves his brothers and his gang but turns with frightening viciousness on anyone else.

Almost everyone in the movie is kind of an asshole, but I guess the "hero" of the piece would actually be Captain Stanley. Yeah, it's a dick move to send one brother to kill another, but the Burns gang really does need to be stopped. It's Stanley's intention to "civilize" the land. Um, good luck with that, dude. The remaining members of law enforcement have none of Stanley's good intentions and really don't seem much better than the Burns gang. Eden Fletcher, who holds some kind of authority, I was unclear as to just what his position was, is particularly loathsome. (He's played by David Wenham, who was Faramir in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Faramir was my absolute favorite. Nice job by Wenham here, because he's a total douche and not a bit like the honorable Faramir. More's the pity.) Emily Watson plays Martha Stanley, the captain's sheltered wife. He spends most of his time with her trying to shield her from the harsh realities of their life. That doesn't go so well either. I enjoyed their relationship; he was very tender with and protective of her and she was very sweet and loving toward him. Winstone and Watson have a very believable warmth between them. I like Emily Watson very much despite never having been able to get through Breaking the Waves. Winstone was great and I'd like to see more of his work, but I'm never going to watch Beowulf. You hear me? NEVER.

This movie is FULL of random actors that I really like. John Hurt turns up in a totally insane role as some kind of deranged bounty hunter. (Though I could have just said "John Hurt plays a bounty hunter. " The total insanity would have been inferred.) It's the kind of role that gets a lot of attention because it's all wacky and shit but doesn't do much for me. All the supporting roles are pretty great.

Also! I just found out that the same guy who directed this, John Hillcoat, is directing the film adaptation of The Road. That gives me a bit more hope that it won't totally suck. Hillcoat handled this material deftly and he could, I imagine, develop quite the niche for himself directing incredibly depressing westerns. And he's got Nick Cave doing the music for The Road, too. Nice! And the music in The Proposition is beautiful. An interesting combination of traditional hymns and melancholy instrumentals. One piece in particular reminded me of the music from The Two Towers for the Rohan scenes, which was my favorite bit of music from the whole trilogy.

Wow, I had a lot to say about that movie. Huh.

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