ÚÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ¿ ³ WYATT EARP: Lawrence Kasdan, director. Dan Gordon & ³ ³ Lawrence Kasdan, screenplay. Starring Kevin Costner, ³ ³ Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, David Andrews, Linden ³ ³ Ashby, Jeff Fahey, Joanna Going, Mark Harmon, Michael ³ ³ Madsen, Catherine O'Hara, Bill Pullman, Isabella ³ ³ Rossellini, Tom Sizemore, JoBeth Williams, Mare ³ ³ Winningham, James Gammon, Rex Lynn, and Adam Baldwin. ³ ³ Warner Bros. Rated PG-13. ³ ÀÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÙ
In a nutshell: much better than TOMBSTONE (1993), but not as good as DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990), and it's not as overly- romanticized as SILVERADO (1985), director/co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's previous Western epic. Big-budget Westerns are back with a vengeance, it seems, leaving me to eat my own words from a review of 1993's HARD TARGET, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. In that review, I stated the Western was dead, mainly to point out how director John Woo had styled TARGET after Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns from the '60s. Efforts like TOMBSTONE and BAD GIRLS notwithstanding, though, the Western is alive and doing well, thank you very much.
That's not so say WYATT EARP isn't without flaws; at best, it's a barely-successful attempt to portray Earp the scalawag as realistically as possible. Sure, it's pompous and ponderous, over-long and over-stated, but it thankfully shows us the gray areas of the man himself, more apt to use his pistol as a billy club than try to talk you out of your guns. The film doesn't make the mistake of pumping Earp up into a heroic figure, posing against burning buildings and moonlit nights ( la Kurt Russell in TOMBSTONE). Wyatt Earp the scoundrel, the hero with feet of clay, a hard man doing a hard job keeping order in the Old West -- this film shows Earp warts and all. With so much focus paid to Earp, though, the deeds of his equally-rascally cohorts, Bat Masterson (Bill Pullman) and Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid), are glossed over. In some respects. both Bat and Doc were more cold-blooded than Earp, but Doc's background is dismissed through a few lines of dialogue and Bat is sanitized beyond belief.
The picture begins with Earp as a boy, wishing he could join the Army in the War Between the States, like his brothers James and Virgil. His father (Gene Hackman) catches him trying to run off and reminds him of his duty to farm and family. "Nothing counts so much as blood," the elder Earp proclaims over the dinner table. "All the rest are strangers." The children roll their eyes because they've heard it a thousand times before; about halfway through the film, though, the audience rolls its collective eyes, because screenwriters Dan Gordon and Kasdan hew rather slavishly to this subtext. Drawing this bond between the brothers at an early age is an easy out to explain why they stuck together so closely throughout their lives. Why they listened to Wyatt, went where he went, and invested in his ventures, is more ambiguous. The film portrays him as the dreamer, the one with big plans and the know-how to implement them, so we may conclude that this quality draws the brothers to Wyatt. In each town, Dodge City and Tombstone, the Earp spouses complain about the constant moving and the brothers' slavish devotion to Wyatt, and rightly so. By the time they reach Tombstone to settle down, you wonder just when the boys will get the itch to wander again. By movie's end, the question is answered permanently for at least one of the Earps: Never.
Earp's portrait as a hard, unyielding hombre doesn't start early in life. His boyish enthusiasm transfers well to Costner's early scenes driving a wagon full of staples for railroad gangers and wooing his first wife in Missouri. It's great to see the normally terse Costner so full of life in the first part of WYATT EARP. The energy is short-lived, though, because soon after Earp loses his first wife to typhoid, he turns sullen, moody and with- drawn, playing to Costner's strength, and simultaneous weakness, as an actor. The screenplay seems tailored to his personality, warping the facts of Earp's life to the star's on-screen persona. I've long thought that Costner would serve as the perfect replacement for Gary Cooper in a big-budget remake of HIGH NOON (1952), should such a project take place. "Yup."
Kasdan backs away from the romanticism of SILVERADO in this picture. Not only does he shed light on Earp's harsher person- ality, he also shows us the bleakness that filled many places in the Old West. Earp witnesses a shoot-out as a young boy, an ugly thing that lasts a second, consisting of missed shots at point- blank range and poorly-aimed shots that hit less than noble areas of the body. Earp's ambush-style method of relieving men of their guns doesn't set too well with the Masterson brothers when they are all made deputies, so the Mastersons lobby with the mayor to have him ousted. As a detective with the railroad, Earp meets Doc Holliday, who's already tubercular and painfully thin. Val Kilmer's portrayal of Holliday in TOMBSTONE, while the best performance of that picture and a startlingly vivid job at that, delineated a Holliday that was physically stronger than expected. Quaid has gone in the other extreme. He lost over 35 pounds for the role, walks unsteadily, and subjects his throat to a phlegmy voice that's hard to listen to. And yet, Quaid wrings every ounce of Southern-gentleman oiliness that he can from the role, the hint of steely menace still burning in his eyes. Doc Holliday again steals the show from Wyatt Earp, as both of these films have set a new standard for the character: a cough-ridden refined Southerner with a penchant for dark humor. I only wish Quaid had more on-screen time; surely he should receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The vistas are wonderful and the camerawork is sharp, but the music is disappointingly wooden, much like Costner's performance in the latter half of the film. At 3+ hours, WYATT EARP is too long to sit through -- it would have worked better with half an hour or more cut out of it. And with a livelier Earp.
/data/webs/external/dokuwiki/data/pages/archive/media/earp.txt · Last modified: 1999/09/08 05:36 by 127.0.0.1