Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) **** 1/2

Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a title that neatly sums up the basic action of the film it’s attached to, but it only tells part of the story. Why did Ford do it and who is really the hero and who is the coward? Those are a few of the enduring question of this new western, yet they remain partly a mystery. Instead of providing straight answers, Jesse James offers a contemplation, a meditation on the nature of fame, of heroes and of hero worship. It also looks at the perhaps not-uniquely-American tendency to idolize a scoundrel. It is a Western more lyrical than action packed. It has more in common with McCabe and Mrs. Miller than The Magnificent Seven. If Terrence Malick made a western, it might be something like Jesse James, though instead of musing on a man’s place in nature, this film considers a man’s place in history.

The story of Jesse James has been told many times in many forms. This telling by writer/directord Andrew Dominik (Chopper) is based on the novel by Ron Hansen. It begins in 1881 when the outlaw (Brad Pitt) is 34 years old. He’s married, has two children, and is already somewhat of a legend in his own time, the subject of songs and popular novels. To some, especially those whose sympathies lie with the Confederate South, he’s a hero, a kind of Robin Hood. To others he’s a murderer and a thief.

The failed Northfield Minnesota Raid is long past and brothers Frank and Jesse James are all that remain of the infamous James-Younger gang. The new members are mostly “rubes and petty thieves” including brothers Charley and Robert Ford (Sam Rockwell and Casey Affleck). 19-year-old Robert is the youngest member of the gang. He’s desperate to prove himself, but he’s awkward and green and frequently the butt of jokes. As a boy he worshipped Jesse James and he still has a collection of dime novels and mementos featuring the outlaw. At one point he reverently lays them out on his bed like religious artifacts. “It’s all a lie you know,” Jesse says of the stories about him, but he also seems to enjoy the adulation and he’s happy to let Robert perform menial tasks for him.

Frank (Sam Shepard) doesn’t like the new gang and he’s tired of the outlaw life. With Jesse seeming to become increasingly unstable and dangerous, Frank is the glue that holds the gang together and when he retires, the gang begins to implode. Jesse has grown paranoid and trusts no one. Petty squabbles and rivalries between the gang are magnified by suspicion. Lies are told and secrets are kept and the tension escalates.

Against this ominous backdrop, the pending assassination hangs over the story like a pall. You know it’s going to happen, but not when or why. It is the question of how Robert goes from reverence to murder that drives the story along and when the killing finally happens, it’s no less shocking for being expected.

When it’s over, Ford’s motives remain ambiguous. There are several reasons offered why he killed Jesse James, some of them casting him in a better light than others, but in the end his true motives might have no meaning. Ultimately, history decides who’s a hero and who’s a coward. “I honestly believe I’m destined for great things, Mr. James,” Ford says ominously at one point. It’s a prophesy he fulfills, but he’s unable to control the role he plays in his own history. He’s ensured that he’ll be remembered, but not how. In this case, history has judged and Ford is forever memorialized as a coward.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 001

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a slow, beautiful, beguiling film alive with a love of language and a Coenesque fascination with now outmoded turns of speech. The spare and beautiful score from Nick Cave elegantly plays off the gorgeous photography of the great Roger Deakins (surely between this, In the Valley of Elah and No Country For Old Men Deakins has to win an Oscar this year, doesn’t he?). The matter of fact, literary sounding voiceover that dominates parts of the film took me a while to warm up to and seemed pretentious at first, but it won me over. The Robert McKee hack-screenwriting-formulists will insist that voiceover is lazy filmmaking, telling rather than showing, but I think it’s especially effective when translating literature to film as is the case here. Except for the dialogue, it’s the only way to acknowledge the author’s voice.

The only small misstep the film makes is the distracting casting of political-consultant-cum-talking-head James Carville as the Governor of Missouri. He’s not a bad actor, but you never forget who you’re looking at and his scenes pull you out of the movie. It’s a small issue however and the rest of the cast is superb. It’s their acting rather than the plot that is really the motor keeping the film moving. Combined, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner and Garret Dillahunt threaten to steal the movie as gang members Charley Ford, Dick Liddil, Wood Hite and Ed Miller. Sam Shepard is scarce but good as Frank James.

As good as the supporting cast is, the center of the film belongs to Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the two title characters. Pitt is the superstar here, but it’s important not to underestimate how good he really is. He veers nicely between good and evil, dangerous and charming without overdoing it. Casey Affleck is an even bigger surprise. At turns slimy, pathetic, and sad, at others innocent and almost noble, Affleck drives the desire, the fear, the desperation and the ambiguity of his character home. I think it’s safe to say Casey has earned the acting credibility that has always seemed to elude his older brother Ben. This movie really belongs to him.

It remains to be seen whether audiences will turn out for a complex, thoughtful western that doesn’t feature a lot of action or a clear cut resolution. It’s a long movie and slow, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a sipping beverage meant to be savored and enjoyed, like scotch, lighting up your tongue and warming your throat and belly as it goes down. It doesn’t offer the quick and easy pleasures of more forgettable product, but it nourishes. There are a lot of movies yet to be released this year, but The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the good ones and you should see it in a theater on the biggest screen you can find.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. USA 2007. Written and Directed by Andrew Dominik. Based upon the novel by Ron Hansen. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Music Score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Starring Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Mary-Louise Parker and Garret Dillahunt. 2 hours 40 minutes. Rated R for some strong violence and brief sexual references. 4.5 stars (out of 5)


59 thoughts on “Review: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) **** 1/2

  1. “He’s ensured that he’ll be remembered, but not how. In this case, history has judged and Ford is forever memorialized as a coward.”

    I love that observation. The movie says a lot of interesting things about fame, well, asks a lot of interesting questions anyway, but this is indeed one of the most important observations it makes. Ford tries to shape his own myth, afterwards, but fails grandly, and even Jesse James seems intrigued and somewhat mystified about what people write about him.

    Anyaway, glad you finally got around to the review 🙂 You were right about #3 in my top 50, I have a post that’s been half done for a week, I’ll try to finish it tonight.

    By the way, you mention Malick and McCabe, but did you also know that the director himself mentions “Barry Lyndon” as an influence? If you think about it, you can definitely see it, in some of the framing and the voice-over, especially, but Dominik gets closer to his characters, really tries to get under their skin, while Kubrick always remained at a distance.

  2. Jeff, what a difference a star makes, eh?

    Hedwig. Now that you mention it, I do remember Dominik referencing Barry Lyndon, yet I totally didn’t get that vibe while watching it. BL is one of my favorites and now I feel like a dope for missing it.

    I’ll have to keep it in mind when I watch the movie again and see if I can spot any visual similarities. Thinking back there are some definite thematic parallels.

    Both movies are about a young man who tries to make of himself something he isn’t he isn’t and fails.

  3. Just got back from this movie. Wow. Count me on board with everyone calling it the best thing since whatever the last best thing was. I did get the BL thing (particularly that final image,and how it caps an ending that seems to come a second sooner than you expect) while watching it.

    I don’t want say too much yet, I’m greedy and want to save it for my site, but this needs to be said, Brad Pitt is fucking iconic, amazing here. And that’s from someone who usually finds his “actor” work a little self-conscious. This is an “actor” performance commenting on a “star” performance, and its better than he’s ever done in either.

  4. I’m glad you liked it because now I don’t just look like a pretentious tit. You’re absolutely right about Pitt too. I came away being knocked out by Affleck, but it’s unfair to underestimate Pitt. I’ve also thought some of his serious acting performances have been a little too…actorly…but here he was very much at ease and let himself be absorbed by the role yet still in control of it.

    Perhaps he knows a little something about trying to live up to your own image.

    Looking forward to your review.

  5. It’s the kind of film that’s hard to bring your head to soon afterwards, or even the next day. More immediately, I didn’t want to shake the pensive meditative state it engendered. And even now that a day has passed it still resonates in a way that makes me want to sit somewhere in an unspoiled, lonely and desolate natural setting (preferably the wintry Canadian locations seen in the film) and key into the melancholy beauty. But you have to know how to look for it. And The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford reminds us of the potential rewards of taking one’s time to connect more reflectively and poignantly with the world around us, including its artistic representation.

    If you can’t surrender to the film’s deliberately contemplative tone and pacing you’ll struggle to see value in it.

    But it’s more than a mood piece. And the first question I asked of the film was why it took such a melancholy and elegiac approach to telling this story?

    In this tale death seems ever present. Most everything is referencing and connected to the assassination. James is hyper aware of threats to his own life, and he’s increasingly staring death in the eye both philosophically and literally – when regarding Robert Ford. James is also the embodiment, and in some cases, harbinger of death for his associates. Before finally making his peace with his fate, James’ preoccupation with betrayal and his erratic behavior left associates regularly feeling like their lives were in the balance. And the make-up and lighting often produced a near corpse-like appearance to many characters, as if death was but a few short steps away, particularly when Pitt’s James set his unnervingly probing and prescient gaze upon them.

    I hadn’t expected such a menacing and dark characterization from Pitt. I’d rather take my chances with Crowe’s Ben Wade than with this James. He brought to mind Pitt’s character in Kalifornia, but his performance here is far more nuanced and consummate. Pitt may never be better cast again. And the same can be said of Casey Affleck – I didn’t know he had it in him. His performance is pitch-perfect, and he completely holds his own with Pitt. Affleck expertly illuminates someone who behaved the way Ford did. He’s both pitiful and venal, naïve and calculating, courageous and cowardly. The themes that relate to the cult of celebrity and revisionist history are explored most directly through Ford and his fate. CJ and others have expertly covered this. But for me the strongest messages I took from it related to the contemplation of death. The different ways one approaches and encounters their passing. We can struggle against it and do our best to postpone its arrival. But at some point by accepting that death is inevitable the possibility exists of attaining unexpected peace, and in doing so a capacity to see the world more lucidly – both its minutiae and grandeur, personal and universal – with sad affection and thankfulness.

    There’s plenty more I could say, particularly about particular devices it used – doorway/window framing and seeing the world through a distorting lens/medium. But this is getting long enough.

  6. There is definitely more than one approact to take to this thoughtful, mysterious film and I like your more personal angle Sartre. It was all I could do to grab a corner and cough up a review, let alone to absorb all the ins and outs of what I was seeing.

    Relating to the subject of death, it made me think of how we can only control our lives up to that moment. The best we can do is try and live good lives and then hope history gets the story right afterwards.

    Like you, I was also interested in some of the shots through distorted glass or with a lens filter that made the edges of the frame appear fuzzy. This was very much a movie about the distorting effects of history and even the imperfection of our impression of events as they happen.

    The fuzzy lens especially got me to thinking how this film really trimmed away the details from the edges of the story and zeroed in on whatever subject was at the center. The backstory is left vague and things happen to characters off screen. Frank just kind of disappears at one point.. I don’t have a complete thought here but I wanted to get it off my chest before I go see Michael Clayton this evening.

    And speaking of having to sit with a movie for a while before being able to talk about it, I saw Lust, Caution yesterday and actually changed my own opinion between the time the credits rolled and I started writing the review.

    With Jesse James, I liked it right away, but had to really think about it to understand what it was I liked.

  7. I had similar thoughts about the distorted glass and lens filter that made the edges fuzzy. It seemed to work in a number of ways. As you say it was a device for illustrating how the past is distorted by its historical documentation. And the imperfection of impressions as they unfold in real time, in particular as represented in this story by the distorted view of Jesse that Robert Ford (and the fan base across the ages) held, and Jesse’s own tendency towards paranoia in his most desperate moments. It also brought to mind daguerreotype photos from the 19th century with some parts of the image blurred, or decaying over time. The reference to photography also helps to illustrate how that period was imprecisely fixed in time, then and now.

    I thought the window and doorway framing was also emphasizing how we formally represent a moment in history. And, I suspect I’m imagining connection here, but I wonder whether the effect of presenting things as framed also acted as a visual pre-cursor for the assassination scene when Jesse reaches to clean the framed picture of a horse. Just as several early shots tracking Jesse from behind foreshadowed a circumstance of his demise.

    ‘The fuzzy lens especially got me to thinking how this film really trimmed away the details from the edges of the story and zeroed in on whatever subject was at the center. The backstory is left vague and things happen to characters off screen.’

    I really like this CJ. It rings true.

  8. Haven’t seen the film yet, it hasn’t come here, so you guys shut up. hehe. kidding. I appreciate how well you’re all able to discuss it without too much spoilerage.

    I can comment on the distorted lens effect. In both The New Yorker and Philly Inquirer, the reviews have likened this effect to photographs made with a primitive home-made pinhole camera. On a website I found featuring photos a guy has done with various models of pinhole cameras, the photographer describes the effect very beautifully:

    “The low tech, intuitive nature of pinhole camera photography opens up many creative possibilities. The cameras are often homemade, and when standardized photographic materials such as film are used, they are often used in non-standardized ways. The exposures are often quite long, even in full sunlight, so the passage of time itself seems to be a participant in the image making — shadows move, leaves flutter and the landscape changes. With pinhole photography, it’s not so much a matter of “taking a picture,” it’s more like collecting photons and then seeing what the collection looks like.

    “When using a homemade camera that has no lens, lightmeter, automatic shutter, etc. the photographer can really get inside the process of the image creation itself, and develop an almost tactile sense of what is going on inside the camera while the image is being made…

    “Pinhole camera images have an unusual, dream-like quality, but the images themselves weren’t dreamt up in the sense of being layered with a image editing program — these photographs are simply what the camera recorded, and are in that sense a vision of reality that is as valid as any other.”

    Not sure what Deakins did to simulate this pinhole camera effect for moving images, but from what you guys are saying, it sounds like he managed to achieve this dreamlike sensation.

  9. oops, I said “philly inquirer” but the quote I was remembering is actually from the phillyweekly:

    “An unnamed narrator (Hugh Ross) dispassionately lays out a dryly academic collection of facts, which instantly and quite pleasingly clangs against Roger Deakins’ breathtaking, baroquely stylized cinematography. (A lot of frames boast fuzzy distorted margins, as if shot through a pinhole camera.)”

  10. Thanks for this Rollerboy. The dream-like and passage of time capture certainly fits with the film’s sensibility. Whether or not you think it succeeds in every way I have no doubt that you’ll luxuriate in this film’s visual style and tone. Pity your home town is slow on the uptake in some respects.

  11. Sounds like most places are slow on the uptake when it comes to this movie. I blame Warner Bros.

    Good stuff Rollerboy. What both of you are saying fits in with the idea of the imperfection of memory and vision. Not only that by the imperfection of our own perceptions. How well do we really know anyone? This is a particulary interesting question in the context of the modern age when whole relationships are carried out in 1s and 0s online.

    And I’m reminded of a great scene in another terrifc movie photographed by Mr. Deakins:

    “They got this guy, in Germany. Fritz Something-or-other. Or is it…maybe it’s Werner. Anyway, he’s got this theory. You wanna test something, you know, scientifically…how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap…well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes you look at it, your looking changes it. Ya can’t know the reality of what happened, or what would’ve happened if you hadn’t-a stuck in your own goddamn schnozz. So there is no ‘What Happened’. Not in any sense that we can grasp with our puny minds, because our minds… our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the Uncertainty Principle. Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy’s on to something.”

    That’s an easy one but I’ll buy dinner for whoever names it and dessert too if you can say where the character’s name came from.

  12. Well that does it. Now I’ll have to go see it. First of all, I love slow-moving shots, if they’re done well. Next, I wanna see Brad Pitt do something decent for a change, and this sounds like my best chance. And the cinematography sounds intriguing. I’m tired of movies that look Hollywood-pretty or self-obvious in their handheld grittiness — poor imitations of the likes of Children of Men.

  13. Freddie Riedenschneider in The Man Who Wasn’t There.

    “Doc” Erwin Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) in The Asphalt Jungle.

    The only thing I knew off the the top of my head was what movie it came from. The rest was a scavenger hunt of click-n-google Though maybe I get points for efficiency since it only took two clicks.

    And if anyone can name the movie in which Dr. Hunter Clickengoogle appears, I’ll buy you a Nocturne for Glockenspiel and Flugelhorn CD.

  14. It doesn’t matter how you got the answer, just that you got it first. Next time you’re in LA or I’m in Kentucky, dinner and dessert is on me.

    lol…Hunter Clickengoogle. I almost fell for that one.

  15. Hi, neighbor!

    It’s still only playing at one theater here, one with notoriously uncomfortable seats. I saw Grindhouse there, and my discomfort contributed to my agony during the dialogue scenes in Death Proof. (I’ve since seen the DVD version, and unfortunately the seats can’t be blamed for my impatience with big, interminable chunks of that film. Fell in a ditch, yeah…) I only mention it because long movies need to be seen in a reasonably comfortable setting to be appreciated.

    (Remember when multiplexes were small and had shitty screens, and art-houses were the only remaining decent theaters? That seems to have completely reversed in the last decade or so.)

    Still, I don’t want to wait, and it sounds as if it really need to be seen on a big screen. Maybe it will open wider. It’s a shame how this film’s being treated.

  16. “Logs, logs, logs!!”

    Sorry Frank, that pops into my head every time I see your name…complete with chainsaw sound effect. I shit you not.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping in. My enthusiasm for Jesse James abounds, but whether or not to see it in an uncomfortable theater is a tough question.

    This is definitely a movie that begs to be seen on a big screen (plus it deserves all the box office money it can get), but it’s also a movie that could test your patience if your ass hurts. It’s long and it’s not exactly a Michael Bay movie in terms of siezure inducing action.

    Box Office Mojo shows it expanding on October 19. I don’t know how much or how reliable that information is or how much it will be impacted by the fact it’s already not doing so hot in a limited number of theaters.

  17. It seems exactly like Little Children. There were people begging for that movie to come out and it was a no show. Same with Jesse James.

    The thing is, I think Little Children is an easier sell albeit to a more modest audience. They have no choice it seems but to sell Jesse James as a Brad Pitt movie, but I think it will frustrate those who show up just for that. He’s excellent in it, but it just doesn’t seem like a mainstreamy movie to me. I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating the audience.

    Or maybe I’m talking out of my ass again.

  18. I agree CJ. It’s not a mainstream movie. Few films will ask as much of your basic Brad Pitt fan. They shouldn’t have tried to build an audience but rather gone wide early on and netted the said fans in larger numbers before word-of-mouth warned most of the remaining ones off.

  19. Not “Candy Colored Clown?”

    The upscale urban-mall theater that opened last year has played stuff like Pan’s Labyrinth and Volver. I’m hoping it will play there, however briefly. Otherwise I’ll just load up on codeine and muscle relaxers and deal with the torture seats.

    Hmmm, this kind of film might play better that way regardless…

  20. Just saw it last night, one thing I couldn’t help but think of was to return to the 3:10 to Yuma conversation: there, I never bought Crowe’s performance on a deep level. Here, Pitt is basically playing the same character, and he nails it – charming, but always with an edge underneath that lets you know that he’s wary of the men he’s working with, strategizing to keep his enemies close and off-guard at all times, and in certain scenes, downright scary. A perfectly balanced, unified performance from beginning to end.

  21. Frank, you could always tip back a 6 pack or two of PBR’s.

    Jeff, it’s telling there’s no argument (so far) about what made Pitt’s version of Jesse James tick. That speaks volumes.

  22. It’s about time somebody besides Fincher figured out how to use Pitt.

    In Seven, his character was a stooge who thought he was Bullit. In Fight Club, he wasn’t even an actual person, which I thought was perfect. I always wondered how in on the joke Pitt was, especially after learning that the character from Living in Oblivion was based on him. (Please, nobody try to tell me his mannered twitchiness in Twelve Monkeys was good work.)

    It sounds like a big leap forward for him acting-wise. I’ve gotta see this!

  23. I’ve never seen Pitt as a mediocre actor and still think his performance in Twelve Monkey’s was good. Yes it was a little broad but that was perfectly in keeping with a Terry Gilliam characterization (particularly in supporting roles). I also thought he was excellent in Babel, Fight Club, Kalifornia and a number of other films. He certainly doesn’t have the range or depth of talent that the top rung do, but that can be said of most. I’d personally put him in a similar league with other good charisma actors like George Clooney. I’m not claiming this of frankbooth, but I wonder whether people are inclined to be more dismissive of Pitt’s acting talent given his looks and celebrity.

  24. Aw, go ahead and claim it of me, but I don’t think it’s the case. I like Clooney a lot better than Pitt. I like Newman and Brando when they were young and superhumanly good-looking, and I like Depp, though he’s on thin ice with me lately. And the tabloid stuff doesn’t affect me — I seldom come into contact with it, and when I do just tune it out.

    There’s just something missing there for me. He often feels like he’s doing the same method Dean-isms a whole generation or two of male actors have gotten by on. Acting with his hair, looking pained and soulful, all that stuff. He even managed to make Cruise look good (or at least animated) by comparison in Fangs and Nice Drapery.

    Or to put it more briefly: when he scrunches up his face and cries, I just don’t buy it. But I (like everyone else) I also used to think Clooney was a creampuff, and I will walk in to Jesse James with an open mind.

  25. Finally saw this, finally able to join the comment party:

    I thought Pitt’s performance in 12 Monkeys was good, it was just the wrong Terry Gilliam movie. He brought Time Bandits, everyone else was bringing Fisher King sans Robin Williams.

    For me the most exciting thing about Pitt in TAoJJbtCRF was that he finally found a subtle touch in a performance. He combined some fits of manic crazy-guy energy but he massaged it into a more standard, down tempo role. It works pretty well because when he has those bursts of psychosis, it punctuates how lost and dangerous Jesse James really has become. I’m not saying it’s perfect…I think Pitt turned it on a tad strong in a couple of scenes, but in others he was note perfect. And when James was wallowing in depression, Pitt just nailed those moments.

    Affleck was superb. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor play the cowardly wimp desperate for respect and esteem better. He could have easily slipped into buffoonishness or simply lost control of the careful balance that was Robert Ford, but he didn’t. He deserves some acting accolades for his brilliant performance.

    I could go on about the rest of the supporting cast but I’ll just say this: why the hell isn’t Sam Rockwell working more? It’s just not fair. Every time I see him in something new, I’m always impressed with him. I just recently revisited Hitchhiker’s Guide and was blown away by his over-the-top performance.

    As far as the visual look of those distorted shots: Knowing what little I do know about all of this leads me to believe it was an entirely digital effect, applied after the fact. Not sure how they pulled it off, but what I found more interesting was WHEN they decided to use it. It’s applied to very specific shots and I haven’t concluded exactly what that was meant to imply.

    The were a lot of distorted views. Numerous shots where the figures were in silhouette, numerous shots through old-style glass windows that distorted the view through them. There’s one scene, I believe right before James is shot by Ford, where his face is being distorted by the glass but the effect is only really noticeable on his eyes. It’s possibly this was digitally added, but the implication is that James is completely deranged. It was a nice touch.

    It’s disappointing how the studio handled this film. It would have been smart to release this into smaller theaters and art houses, lead it build word-of-mouth off the early buzz and go wide later if it actually was finding an audience. Instead, they’ve hung it almost entirely on Pitt’s star power in multiplexes where it doesn’t belong. That will backfire. I seriously doubt most of the people in the theater I was in last night were thrilled with this movie (OK, I’m being a pretentious cynical snob here but come on). They mostly looked like Snatch and Oceans fans, not that those movies are bad, just that they attract a completely different audience.

  26. The thing for me about 12 Monkeys is that when I first saw it, I was pretty amazed. At that point to me, BP was just the guy in Thelma and Louise all the women thought was so cute. In retrospect, I see now he’s just playing Crazy Guy which I’ve come to believe is actually a pretty easy role to play. I think he does it well, but it’s much less impressive.

    he crossed the line a couple of times in Jesse James, but never egregiously so and for the most part he was pretty restrained.

    And you’re right about Sam Rockwell by the way. That guy needs to be in more stuff. Also good was Paul Schneider as Dick Liddil….also in Lars and the Real Girl for what it’s worth.

  27. I agree about Sam Rockwell. He’s an exceptionally talented actor and we just don’t see him enough. I hope he gets more chances to lead in quality films.

    Paul Schneider has the makings of a wonderful character actor.

  28. Hopefully casting directors and what not were paying attention to this film because all of the main supporting cast were excellent and deserve more work. I love when a movie like this has been so well-cast…it’s nice to have a strong ensemble of fairly fresh faces so that you’re not hung up on “Hey, I recognize so-and-so from that one Buffy episode” or “Isn’t that the guy from that Soderbergh movie?”

    I like being able to be caught up in the moment. I suppose that’s what Craig was getting at with his comment about that jack-ass, Carville. He did an OK job in the role but it did kind of stop the narrative cold in its tracks.

  29. I agree about the acting quality in this film. Carville didn’t bother me so much because the pace was slow enough that it was easy to hop back on the Jesse train after being thrown slightly off track by his appearance.

  30. As a Johnny Foreigner I’m more dimly aware of Carville’s profile, so I didn’t get temporarily derailed. I thought he did a fairly good job for a non-actor.

    You’re right Joel, it’s a real treat to encounter a fine ensemble of fresh faces. I actually experience that more in quality cable shows like Deadwood (outside of the 4 or 5 I already knew), Carnivale, and The Wire with its terrific black actors.

  31. Carville was a distraction to me, but again I have to add that he wasn’t a bad actor at all.

    And a final word about the cast and acting in general. They really elevated this movie for me and kept what could’ve been slow going pretty entertaining.

    I’m shocked to learn this thing only cost $40 million and even more shocked to learn that it probably won’t make its money back unless it gets some Oscar action.

  32. It may not earn its money back domestically, but more challenging films can sometimes attract a decent overseas box office. And I believe that Pitt’s films generally make more money overseas.

    I agree CJ, the acting was outstanding and engaging. Its one of those films that I thought outstanding across all departments.

    Looking forward to reading the pending Craig and the Real Review, err I mean Lars and the Real Girl 🙂

  33. That’s how it often is with me – seems like I have to repeatedly bang my head up against something that I can’t get to work. Then after finally shaking myself loose and taking a different angle, voila! It falls into place.

  34. Well, now it’s playing at the horrible Opera Plaza cinema, which shows some good films but has what have got to be the smallest screens in town. The screening rooms are so tiny that if Tall Guy with Curly Hair sits in front of you, you’re screwed.

    I know I should quit bitching (hard seats…small screens…the horror, the horror!) and be happy that it’s even playing nearby , but I’m feeling increasingly pissed-off about the way this film has been treated. It’s Brad freakin’ Pitt, movie star, can’t they give it a week or two in wide release in regular theaters? Cut a trailer that highlights Pitt with his shirt off, features positive blurbs from major critics and shows lots of mean-looking dudes brandishing firearms? Misrepresent the movie? Fine by me.

    At least there’s a good chance that it will become something of a cult film and will eventually play at The Castro.

  35. The Castro? Are you somewhere near SF frankbooth? If so, make the trip to the Big City and see Jesse James the way it was meant to be. I’d hate for this conversation to unfold with the unfortunate curly haired beanpole blocking your view:

    Frank Booth: Hey you wanna go for a ride?
    Beanpole: No thanks.
    Frank Booth: No thanks? What does that mean?
    Beanpole: I don’t wanna go.
    Frank Booth: Go where?
    Beanpole: For a ride.
    Frank Booth: A ride! Now that’s a good idea!

  36. I am not near anything, Sartre. I am smack-dab in ground zero of Lumberton-by-the-Bay, though it often more closely resembles the Land of the Dead.

    This is precisely why I’m so irritated. Even in this urban oasis of cable cars and crack, there is not a single decent theater showing the film. Well, since my last posting a few hours ago, I gave in, and dealt with the issue by sitting in the second row of the crackerbox artsyplex. I could see the texture of the screen, but at least this created the illusion that it was of a respectable size.

    And, wow. I’m very late to the party, but it’s all true. The visuals and the tone, amazing. Affleck’s unformed baby-face, perfect. Now I want to see Gone Baby Gone, just so I can see for myself that he really isn’t that guy.

    Pitt was fantastic. The years sit well on him, and he may be entering a new phase of his career–one in which I don’t laugh at him. He was genuinely scary.

    Supporting cast, great. Rockwell plays over-the-top spazzes to perfection, but it was nice to see him more subdued and sutble here. The nitwits who call it boring or say it should be cut are just that, and should be beaten senseless by hack German directors (oops, too late!) Some of the reviews led me to believe that there was one robbery at the beginning of the film followed by two and a half hours of guys sitting around, which is completely false. It’s not action-packed, but it is a very tense and intense film.

    I’ll pat myself on the back a bit: I always liked Chopper, and thought that Bana was often unfairly given all the credit while the director was all but ignored. Bana WAS stupendous, but obviously Dominic had something more to offer than staying out of his lead actor’s way.

    I’ve gone on again, but as a wise man once said, if you post at the end of thread, you can say any damn thing you want because no one’s paying attention.

    I masturbate to reruns of I Dream of Jeannie.

  37. Ahahahahhaha. Good one Frank.

    I’m really glad you liked Jesse James and I’m glad a less than ideal theater experience didn’t ruin it for you.

    There may not have been a ton of action after the opening, there was a lot of suspense and it was fun to listen to these guys talk. Part of it was the writing of the dialogue, but most of it was the acting. The only false note has been mentioned more than once: Carville, but again for me that wasn’t because he was bad, just a distracting real-life personality.

  38. I’d add Cave’s cameo. But both were suited to their roles, and wouldn’t stand out if you didn’t know who they were.

    Carville should play Freddy Krueger in the inevitable Nightmare on Elm Street remake. He was pretty menacing.

    I guess sometimes you need a monster to fight monsters…

  39. Totally Freddy Krueger.

    He’d make a good Alien for Close Encounters 2 also.

    And wow, I didn’t even notice the saloon singer was Nick Cave. He’s only in one of my favorite movies of all time: Wings of Desire.

  40. Yeah, it’s great to read your enthusiastic response to Jesse James, Frank. Makes me want to see the movie again in a theatre (sorry I refuse to use American spelling with this word) while I can.

    Wings of Desire is also one of my all time favorites.

    As I may be the last commenter on this thread I can now say anything I want.

    frankbooth masturbates to I Dream of Jeannie.

  41. There’s more to Jeannie than meets the eye, you guys. That bitch is crazy.

    “No, I mean Nick Cave in the original German movie. He had a tiny scene.”

    Either you’re feeding me straight lines, or someone forgot to tell me it’s Literal Day.

  42. (sound of crickets chirping)

    I hate it when I take someone seriously and they were just kidding.

    It’s better than offending them by thinking they’re kidding when they’re being serious, but still.

  43. In this case, it’ s more offensive to think I was being serious.

    Now where did I get the idea that Joel Schumacher directed City of Angels (which, by the way, I have not actually seen)? Just seems like the sort of thing he’d do, I guess.

  44. I was afraid you’d say that.

    It would’ve been kind of awesome if Schumacher had directed City of Angels because then I could’ve avoided an annoying remake AND another annoying Schumacher movie all at once.

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