Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jane Got a Gun (2016)

Oh, man. You know I love westerns.

With its isolated, "under siege" setting and climatic all-out battle, Jane Got a Gun delivered on some of my most personally favorite classic Western components--while also including a fair amount of revisionist storytelling. And Mandy Walker's work as cinematographer (one of the most essential parts of any western) is fantastic.

Here's the bad news. The film is not without its problems, in many ways related to its script: most particularly the aggressively mediocre dialogue. It is difficult to evaluate the film without acknowledging the extremely tumultuous route it took to finally make it to the screen. It lost its director, Lynne Ramsay as shooting was to begin. And, that was a definite loss. Gavin O'Connor is an fine director, but I would have preferred to see Ramsay's vision for the film--especially in relation to the character of Jane. Similarly, there was a huge amount of actor shuffling--literally within days of each other. First, Michael Fassbender was to play the role of Jane's ex-lover/current gun-slinging helper, and Joel Edgerton was to play the bad guy. Then, Fassbender had to drop out and Edgerton hopped over to the hero side, while Jude Law took over as bad guy. Then, Law dropped out and Bradley Cooper joined. Literally three days later, Cooper dropped out, and Ewan McGregor was offered the part the day before shooting.

And, because, Ewan literally makes like 8 films a year just for the fun of it, he was all up for that:

Note: How is one person that charming? Comes off a tad ridiculous and unnecessary to be that delightful, Ewan. SHEESH.

Anyway, the production stress does come through in the film (other key crew members also left with Ramsay), and the script was rewritten a few times. Even poor Joel Edgerton got a screen-writing credit.

All that to say, that I still quite enjoyed the movie. I was a little ambivalent on the flashbacks, and even more uncomfortable with Jane being given a backstory of rape--for the seemingly sole purpose to make her more sympathetic. It was in terms of this story that I think Ramsay could have handled much better, or perhaps had more control over the script. I don't know?

That cast though. Of all the actors who cycled through (and I really like some of them), the correct combination was in the final film. Natalie Portman (an actor I don't always care for) was perfect in tone and performance. Her character was above all resilient, and she played that well--giving nuance and depth that wasn't necessarily in the script (and certainly not in the dialogue). What follows in the film after the still below is gloriously fierce and satisfying, and not a moment that female western protagonists are often allowed:

I am so glad that Joel Edgerton switched from the bad guy role to the conflicted anti-hero (ain't no flawless white hat heroes in westerns anymore), because although he is always good at straight-up villains, I really enjoyed his performance here. It's the classic "lacks purpose and driven to alcoholism because life is unfair and he doesn't have anyone to love, but he's gonna get it together one last time" character. It shouldn't work. And I was really not having his character's pity-party pettiness/possessive attitude, until a subtle--but key--moment when he tells Jane that he will listen to her "story." Also, if I'm being honest, I wanted Noah Emmerich dead the entire movie, because Joel Edgerton's sad face GETS ME.

The man has the most effective tears--second only to Omar Sharif! 
Side note:
Exhibit A: Joel (and Tom Hardy) as bros who fight & cry; fight & cry in Warrior.

And, there was Ewan. Blessed Ewan. This dork got his hair dyed jet black and had the most clearly evil mustache I have seen in ever so long.

Half the time, it was impossible to tell it was Ewan. He never usually plays anything quite so evil, and it was clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the entire process. Similarly, his charisma perfectly suited the character--especially as he played off of his gang members: always so far ahead of them in thought and intention and impatiently waiting for them to catch up. It's clear from the start that he is unequivocally evil (he is introduced torturing a man for information) as a wanted murderer and trafficker of vulnerable women and girls, but there is still something about Ewan's performance that hints at greater complexities and shades to his character (which is not at all expressed in the script). 

Also, bless this movie. Because, through it, we got this gloriously horrifying paparazzi shot of Ewan:

I certainly condemn the paps for stalking poor Ewan! That's not cool! But, this photo though. 

But, I digress.

In summary:

I do recommend this film, but possibly more to genre fans who have a fluent understanding of westerns and are able to overlook some mediocre elements. Because, that climatic firefight (and I do mean FIREfight) was definitely worth it; as is Jane's grandest moment of maternal rage. Also worth it: a moment that subverted the white knight rescuer idea; the confident final scene; Joel Edgerton's sad face and/or magical tears; Ewan's evil mustache that may have been cackling on its own at one point; and the gorgeous and amazing camera work by Mandy Walker.

P.S. Won't anybody think of Poor, Sad Joel (tm)?!


DKoren said...

I was going to totally bypass this movie, cuz I have no Natalie Portman love, but... Ewan McGregor? Ewan with a moustache playing evil? In a Western... darn you, Millie! Now, I have to go see this because of Ewan love!

Millie said...

YAAAAY! You were the one person I was really hoping would see this review, as I'm not really sure of anyone else (who reads my blog) who loves westerns as we do. ;-D

Honestly, I have never loved Portman in anything (which is not to say that I've really HATED her in anything either; she's just not a personal fave), but I thought she was actually quite effective here.

But, yes, Evil Ewan is a #delight. And, Joel Edgerton is probably the best thing in the whole movie (!), which is amazing when you consider that Ewan + evil mustache is right there.

Go fast! It's not gonna be in theatres for very long, I'm afraid. And the cinematography was good enough to see this on the big screen.

Also, yay for fellow Ewan Love! I watch him in anything/everything.

DKoren said...

Yes, I will watch Ewan in anything/everything too!

I'm right with you on Ms. Portman. I have no love, but no actual dislike either. Just... massive indifference? The fact that you didn't mind her here, is another positive thing. And I do like Joel Edgerton. He's been quite cool in everything I've seen him in.

I will prob go this coming Sat morning, so will let you know after that!

Millie said...

I love how he literally will be in any kind of movie at any moment. You see him working with acclaimed directors, and then off for a supporting role in Jack the Giant Slayer! What?! I guess all that Star Wars moment ensures that he can just do whatever he wants. haha

Yup! Great cast! Honestly, without the cast, this movie would be likely the worst.

Cool! I'll be interested. And, I only gave it 3 1/2 stars (out of 5) on Letterboxd (are you on that site, cause you should be), so don't go in thinking it's my favorite movie of the year or anything. haha. I have a high tolerance for westerns!

DKoren said...

Right! I'm going mostly for Ewan, who never disappoints, and anything above that will be bonus!

Hamlette said...

Oh man. Now you're making me actually want to see this. Because of exactly what DKoren has said: Ewan in a western. That's really just all I want to see. And my theater only has one showing of it per day, and it's at 9:50pm, and blastation, if it was 9:50am instead I'd be there Saturday absolutely, but we're having 15 people over on Sunday, so not sure staying out late the night before is a good plan. Unless everyone leaves by like 8:30 Sunday night, and I get my kids to bed and hop in the car and buy a coffee at the theater... maybe I can make that work.

Because I was kind of annoyed that this looked fairly mediocre in the trailers, but... Ewan. In a western. You're right, that's worth a watch.

(I'm not really sure of anyone else (who reads my blog) who loves westerns as we do. ;-D What about me? ::Insert sad face here::)


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