First off, I’m assuming you have cable and access to On Demand content. If not, proceed directly to Step 2 which is, “Don’t waste your time reading anymore of this. Go outside and get some fresh air.”
I knew you had cable and On Demand! So let me first set up the circumstances in which an individual comes to watch “Open Range”. You know how you’re trying to find a movie to watch and you go through all the pay per view stuff and nothing’s clicking that’s worth paying $4.99 for and then you go through all the free movies and first it’s by genre and nothing clicks and then in a sheer act of desperation A through L and M through Z and still nothing clicks so then you go back one more time because God forbid you pull out a book, get a jump on the laundry or hit the sack early so you can wake up for once not feeling like someone who just walked into a door?
That’s how I ended up watching “Open Range”. Process of elimination. It’s a western made in 2003 starring Robert Duvall, Annette Bening and Kevin Costner, who also directed the film. Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner play open range cattlemen who let their cows graze anyplace because the law allows for that, but nonetheless, that bugs the daylights out of this Irish immigrant who owns lots of land, has his own cattle, runs a town with an iron fist, controls the sheriff and positively can’t stand the concept of open range grazing and will have his men kill anyone who does it because as we all know, there’s only so much available space in the west in 1882.
“Open Range” is a bit like “Shane” (homesteaders against the ranchers) but without the exciting tree stump removal scene, and none of the actors needed to be shot from the knees up because they were so diminutive in stature they had to stand on apple boxes like Alan Ladd did. Ladd was 5′ 6″ or so and one of the shortest actors in Hollywood. It’s rumored that he suffered for years from a recurring nightmare in which he won the Academy Award but when he went up to receive the Oscar, was horrified to discover that the gold statue was actually three inches taller than he was and no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t strong enough to lift it and carry it back to his table. I made that up, but I figure I’m ok as long as I stick the word ‘rumor’ in a sentence.
So, here’s what you need to know about the movie. Robert Duvall is Gus McCrae, the exact same guy he played in “Lonesome Dove” only now his name is “Boss” Spearman, Kevin Costner must have had trouble remembering his lines because he only had six or seven in the entire movie and I am 99 and 9/10ths certain that Annette Bening had to do this movie to meet some sort of community service obligation. Maybe too many parking tickets, I don’t know. It wouldn’t be fair to speculate but there is no way she made this movie willingly. Well if she did, maybe it was because Ms. Bening was allowed to keep the wardrobe, which could make sense because I bet it’s next to impossible to get anything made out of gingham these days.
The dialog is not very good. Think of yourself standing next to someone on a train platform, both of you waiting for a commuter train that is late and you initiate a conversation with that person on the topic of late trains. “Late again.” “Yep. Second time this week.” “People just don’t take pride on being on time any more.” That’s kind of like the dialog in “Open Range” except with cows instead of locomotives. The good thing is you can leave to make an ice cream sundae or something or remove the wallpaper from the bathroom and come back and know exactly where you are in the plot.
“Open Range” is kind of a mystery story, too. The mystery is why would Annette Bening’s character fall in love with Kevin Costner’s character? She’s an old maid living in a town with lots of men but as far as old maids go, Annette Bening is the Halle Berry of old maids. Kevin Costner is a haunted man who has killed people, is prone to violence, has no sense of humor, doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and may have a terminal case of hat hair. He wouldn’t last five minutes at a barbecue or a toddler’s birthday party. Yet, two minutes after meeting, it’s love at first sight. These things happen in the movies of course, but in real life, I’d say the odds are better of me falling in love the moment I locked eyes with my Honda mechanic, Carmen, than of Annette Bening falling head over heels for Kevin Costner’s character.
There’s a big gunfight at the end and it’s well staged but also looks just like those Western Gunfight at the OK Corral live action things they do in Branson or Dollywood except it’s not as obvious as it is in those shows when the guy on the roof who just got plugged, staggers around long enough to position his body just right so he can do the partial flip and land on the air bag covered with wild west dust.
I give “Open Range” one star just for having an authentic fight scene and one more for having a cute dog in it. Unfortunately, I have to remove one star because the director let Robert Duvall wear the same hat and use all his old head bobbing tricks and it made me depressed that I wasn’t wasting my time better by rewatching “Lonesome Dove” instead. That said, I gave one star back for having Robert Duvall in it because he’s always fun to watch even if he is kind of playing himself.
Now how many stars is that? If I ever had a chance to do it all over again, I swear I’d stay awake in math class.
© 2013 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett