‘Ello everyone. Wild Bill?! More like Mild Bill! Hey look at this a relatively short recap. New Years come early for all y’alls (you like my southern accent?):
- Do I regret doing Wild Bill for BMT? Relevant question. The answer is no, but only because:
- The direction is straight up insane. Dutch angles (might as well be called Wild Dutch Angles! Buuuuurn), black and white flashbacks (might as well be called Wild Black and White Flashbacks! Slammed!!!!) and overexposure galore (might as well be called Wild Overexposure Galore! Roasted!). Out of everything this is what really struck me about the film.
- During my conversation with Jamie a couple things came up. First: just how bad Ellen Barkin and David Arquette were. This related to a conversation about Scarlet Letter and how reviews for that film, oddly, appeared to excuse Demi Moore’s acting (which was atrocious) as a simple miscasting. In this movie a similar thing happened: Arquette is ignored while Christina Applegate (who was actually okay) was eviscerated. Kind of a weird “state of the industry” thing going on. Looking back now Demi Moore’s career was never really the same after Scarlet Letter. Arquette ended up okay, he was young, but this movie strongly suggests his future would have been better served in smaller character actor roles. And Applegate is now a strong supporting or leading female comic actor. Go figure.
- The writing and acting overall are okay. There is interesting things here and there. But nothing that warrants the 90 minutes you’ll spend watching this film. So whatever.
- I think I’m going to steal this one from Jamie as a game: Secret Prequel/Sequel. Hear me out. Wild Bill is the prequel to … R.I.P.D. Jeff Bridges plays a not-so-reputable wild west lawman with a strange obsession with his hat. Add a short prequel explaining why Bridges goes by a different name and we’re good to go.
Alrighty. Prequel/Sequel/Remake. Well, I wouldn’t remake it, no point. I do think a prequel could work though. The legends of the west are interesting. Do a little Unreliable Narrator action with people telling stories about Bill overlaid with the much more reasonable, dirty and mundane “true” story as Bill remembers it acted out. Could work. Who knows? I don’t. I know sometimes my intelligent discourse on the industry can be deceiving, but I do not in fact work in a high-level position in any production house (yet …).
Last week we captured South Dakota with Wild Bill. We worried quite a bit whether this would truly qualify as a BMT film, but I think we rest assured after viewing. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. Middle of the pack. Kind of the down side of a strict BMT criterion. I’m sure there are a number of hilarious BMT films between 40-50% on RT, but we can’t risk the false positives we would have to wade through to find them unless we must.
Since I was able to read both sources materials for the film (Deadwood by Pete Dexter and Fathers and Sons by Thomas Babe) before watching, I’ll mostly discuss the adaptation. Really only one line and two short scenes are taken from Deadwood. It’s otherwise almost entirely based on the play Fathers and Sons. Actually startling that they gave Dexter a writing credit. It is also amazing that Walter Hill wanted to adapt Fathers and Sons to the big screen. It’s a minor 70’s play that was written with little historical accuracy in mind. In fact it was written as an allegory for the Kent State and Jackson State shootings that occurred in the early 70’s, concerning generation-on-generation violence. So Babe didn’t blink an eye when claiming that Wild Bill’s murderer Jack McCall was his son and homosexual. The change to McCall’s character serves only to deepen the allegory he had in mind, and yet many of these types of changes show up in the film. Reviews for the film derided it for playing more into legend than fact and I would say that that’s not even true. It played into a fictionalization of Wild Bill’s death (its source material) instead of fact… it didn’t even worry about legend. There is no legend of McCall being his son, and it certainly wasn’t true. It’s super weird that it sticks so closely to the play and even weirder on some of the changes Walter Hill decided to make. Which leads me to my biggest problem with the film: the mere presence of John Hurt as some bullshit fake British character, Charlie Prince, they used as a replacement of a real, historical character named Charlie Utter who was a major character in the play. Why? There is no acceptable explanation for this. The only plausible one is that they wanted John Hurt in the film, but he refused to do an American accent… which is bullshit. Tell him to go jump in a lake (if we lived in the 1950’s) and get someone willing. You even had Bruce Dern in a minor role in the film. Promote him to Charlie Utter and give Hurt the heave ho.
Also I’m glad Patrick mentioned the Applegate thing. Reviewers were aghast at her “miscasting” (but… but…. but… she’s on Married with Children! Scandalous! Harumph!). I thought she was fine and people were being particularly mean about it. So she’s more attractive than you would want your precious Wild West prostitutes? Boo hoo. Barkin is more attractive than I like my Calamity Jane. So there. Now for my game. Since the film was based primarily on a play I was certain that the film would have a perfect little MonoSklog for us. It didn’t disappoint as it delivered a wonderful Diane Lane monologue during one of the crazy flashback, black-and-white, dutch angle, nightmarescapes that Patrick mentioned. I call it Mi Vida [Editor’s Note: Apologies, as usual to avoid any legal issues with hosting video clips from movies we have to remove the monologue itself. Have fun renting and watching the clip yourself though. And by fun I mean not-fun]. Beautiful. BTW, that’s the actual quality of the film in those scenes. Purposefully grainy. This helps you get an idea of what Patrick was talking about in his recap.
Phew, with that I’m done. I love Walter Hill, but the film wasn’t for me. Cheerios,