Anyone see this movie? I usually dig John Sayles’ movies. He made a lot of my favorites, like LONE STAR and THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH and THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET.
When I don’t like his movies, it’s usually because there’s something cinematic missing, sometimes because the acting is too literary.
A problem I have with a lot of Mamet’s movies as well. He likes his actors to just say his words and knock off the emotion, so as a result, a lot of Mamet’s movies leave me cold, and occasionally Sayles movies do too.
For awhile they both had favorite actors they worked with. Mamet’s was Joe Montegna and Sayles’ was David Strathearn (sp.?). neither of whom I ever found that compelling.
In fact Montegna had trouble working with anyone other than Mamet. When called on for real emotion—rather than a staccato riffing of the author’s words, making them pop the way they must have on the typewriter originally—Montegna seemed to either overact, or underplay the necessary emotional heart of the character, and therefore come off, to me at least, disconnected from what everyone else in the non-Mamet movie was doing.
As for Sayles and Strathearn, he seemed to also like the actor to be relatively emotionless as well, which Strathearn seemed more than capable of doing. It generally bored me, but I could see where he at least had more acting chops than Montegna, for my taste.
But even when working on other projects, if the character was meant in any way to be emotionally sympathetic, it seemed like a reach for Starthearn. Distant, threatening, cold, stern, serious, all that he was very good at.
Anyway, I’m getting off the point, which is SILVER CITY.
I heard about it when it came out and somehow sensed that it wouldn’t be a movie I’d like. But when I saw it just starting on a cable channel tonight, I thought, let me give Sayles the benefit of the doubt, since he has so often impressed me.
But right from the top it was off.
He had this pretty amazing cast, with lots of people whose work I admire, but they were either misused or cast in the wrong roles.
And the lead was another of those supposed “leading men” who just don’t have the spark a leading man needs to carry a film.
This guy I didn’t really know, Danny Huston. I’m wondering if he’s related to legendary filmmaker and actor John, or to John’s daughter Angela, and that’s how he got the job, or the shot at it. Obviously no one’s going to get hired just because they’re related to someone famous. But if they can do the job and have a famous name, they probably are going to get it over a less known name.
We needed someone like Cooper in LONE STAR, but instead this guy Danny Huston has these incredible women falling all over him (Maria Bello doing her best to convince us she’d choose Huston over Billy Zane, and Darryl Hannah looking like a parody of the aging Hollywood star who has had too much face work, completely unbelievable as an Olympics aspiring archer!)—anyway, I’m just not buying it.
Nor am I buying the story, even though I know most of the facts in it are true, or based on truth.
It’s set up to be a fictional expose of the Bush family and W.s entry into politics when he wins the race for governor of Texas. Only in this case it’s Colorado.
Cooper plays the W. character, Richard Dryfess the Karl Rove one, and Michael Murphy (Woody Allen’s Montegna-Strathearn guy in most of his mid-career movies) Bush Senior.
But it’s the worst kind of two-dimensional, cardboard figure bad guy stuff you can imagine. Or I can. If a student had turned in something like this, I would applaud his research on the Bush family and getting his facts pretty straight, but encourage him or her to either write an essay or create characters that have more to them than characteristics that scream I AM SHALLOW, or I AM GREEDY or I AM DUMB. (And go rent THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR an watch it as well!)
Though Cooper, one of our greatest film actors ever, does his best, he struggles with a character that is supposed to be too stupid to even get what’s going on blatantly in front of his face. As if W. were in reality just a dumb little kid who stumbled into power because others knew how to use his family name.
I know, I know, there’s some truth in that, but it is also true that Junior studied political duplicity and media manipulation with the master of it, that guitar rocking out young Republican who worked for Senior whose name I can’t think of but who died young and denounced his actions on his deathbed, which was too late to change W.’s course. (I remembered: Lee Atwater.)
W. has a lot of the sly fox in him, or maybe weasel, but from my observations, as I said in that long anti-war poem, MARCH 18, 2003, he seems completely capable of not flubbing his lines when they have to do with killing people on death row, or in other countries, or exerting his power, etc. He only flubs them when he’s obviously lying.
But not only that, as many shrinks have observed, he’s a classic case of some mental disorder that is a warped version of classic Narcissism. He’s incapable of identifying with anything that he doesn’t see as an extension of himself, that doesn’t feed his sense of entitlement and empower it. Etc.
A lot of rich shit to explore.
And the Rove guy comes off more like that Morris guy who worked for the Clintons and always seemed weasely and later proved it, and continues to. Almost the anti-Rove.
Dreyfess can be great, even as a weasel, but some of the lines he’s called on to play are so over the top, and do not demonstrate the political commitment and acumen that Rove obviously had, but just this obvious kind of bad-guy sinister cynicism.
Amd where Dreyfess has always seemed old, even as a young actor, Rove has always seemed toddler-like, even as a presidential advisor. Rather than oily and weasely, Rove seems to hide behind a childlike mask of innocence and faith (in his "superiors" i.e. the Bushes) whereas in Silver City, Dreyfess comes off as world weary. The "liberal" version of evil. (Imagine the middle-aged portly Brando playing Rove!)
There’s a lot of minor roles played by major actors who fortunately do not have to play cardboard figures and they do the best acting in the film, like Mary Kay Place, always great as far as I’m concerned, and Ralph Waite, who I hadn’t seen in years, buy playing his scenes with this Danny Huston guy, it was like Waite just picked the movie up and carried it in his arms until it was time for him to go.
I’m disappointed. Such great minds and talents seemingly thrown away on I guess a well-intentioned flick, but it was made as if Sayles forgot it was a movie, forgot he needed to engage people in some sort of personal identification with the characters kind of way.
Remember Brando as the founder of the American Nazi Party, Norman Lincoln Rockwell in that TV movie? Or in The Formula where he based his billionaire oil man on one of the Hunt brothers, the right-wing source of funding for all kinds of dirty politics? He made them so fucking complex and human you almost cared about them and certainly understood them better than an essay would have made you, and maybe even identified with at least aspects of their humanity.
Which made it seem even more imperative to be on the alert for the normalcy of evil, and the self-justification of it, and even the seduction of it, instead of symbolic figures in a combination of morality play and old-fashioned melodrama, where we all get to hiss and throw tomatoes at the stick figure bad guys and leave feeling we’ve struck a blow for righteousness, rather than be alert to the bad guys in our midst.