disliked ALL THE PRETTY HORSES. I knew
I would. I took a strong misliking to
the book. Billy Bob Thornton's faithful
realization of the story of John Grady
Cole is a Christmas present for those
who celebrated Cormac McCarthy's novel.
If you are among that number, see the
movie and enjoy yourself. You need read
THE PRETTY HORSES is ostensibly the coming-of-age
tale of young John Grady Cole (Damon),
who, in 1949, with his best pal Lacey
Rawlins (Thomas) rides off in search of
the only life he's ever wanted-that of
a cowhand. See, Cole's grandfather has
just died, and his mother has inherited
the spread. Eager to get as far away from
the money-losing, windswept West Texas
ranch as fast as she can, Mom is selling
the place. Cole tries to get his father
(Patrick) to talk her out of it, but Dad
has been broken by World War II and their
subsequent divorce, and is loath to intervene.
A sympathetic local lawyer (Shepard) tells
Cole his chances of reclaiming the ancestral
property are nil.
a boy to do? Well, if you're John Grady
Cole, you pack up your old kit bag, collect
your best buddy, saddle up the horses,
and ride off across the Rio Grande into
a country (Mexico) and a state (adulthood)
you don't know shit about, to be a cowhand.
Why? Near as I can figure, it's a case
of a monumental sense of entitlement:
My daddy and his daddy and his daddy before
him lived this life, and by God, I'm entitled
to it, too. Both movie and novel lament
for a way of life whose loss was not the
tragedy that Thornton and McCarthy would
have us believe, and that's the fatal
weakness of both versions.
they can even get into Mexico good, Cole
and Rawlins meet up with trouble, in the
person of Jimmy Blevins (Black), a young
boy riding a horse that may or may not
be his, and sporting a Colt pistol almost
too big for him to heft. Blevins leads
them into some entanglements with the
law, but they separate from him and wind
up working as cowhands on the expansive
ranch of Señor Rocha (Blades).
Cole quickly falls in love with his new
boss's daughter, Alejandra (Cruz), and
they begin an affair. Then one morning,
rurales show up, handcuff Cole and Rawlins,
and take them to jail, where they re-encounter
Blevins. What follows is a tale of rough
justice; nature, red in tooth and claw;
bittersweet young love; more rough justice;
and some sadder-but-wiser reflecting.
movie's good points are few, but I must
mention the fine performance by Henry
Thomas (probably best known as the little
boy in E.T.) letter-perfect in looks,
attitude, and accent. One of the more
interesting film trends of the year 2000
has been the increased attention to the
job of the food stylist. I was dying for
Mexican food after watching several meals
during this movie. Easily the best scenes
of the movie were those of Cole's encounters
with justice, contrasting Mexican justice,
in the person of the Captain (an excellent
Julio Oscar Mechoso) and American justice,
in the person of the Judge (an equally
excellent Bruce Dern).
the bigger part of the movie consists
of a real wrong premise, the intrusive,
"big country"-style Western
score, and all-pervasive boredom.
Bogucka, an Action Grrl!