Thursday, January 15, 2004

Civil Servicing

Two middle-aged women sat behind me ahead of tonight's showing of Cold Mountain and I swear to God the first thing one of them said was 'I hope it's not going to be too sexy'. Well, hell no. Heaven forbid that this season's romantic blockbuster should have a bit of passion, right? That's a bit like sitting down to watch a comedy and saying 'oh my, I do hope this isn't going to be too funny' or a thriller and declaring 'it's really going to spoil my evening if I start to feel excited by this'. But then, as the film progressed, the very same woman derided Jude Law's character as 'a bit of a Jessie' for not sharing his hambone with wanton widow Natalie Portman (you have to concede, she has a point there, even if Jude didn't) and there was no sign of her leaving the cinema when the long arm of the Law finally ascended Nicole Kidman's twin peaks in the climactic love scene.

But then, although in principle, Cold Mountain is a relatively old-fashioned movie aimed at women - taciturn, noble hero overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles during the American Civil War to save a beautiful damsel in distress from the clutches of irredeemably evil villains - there's enough lust (Philip Seymour Hoffman as a pervy priest providing lecherous laughs in a whorehouse), inhumanity (some impressively staged and bloodily gruesome battle scenes), and cavalier violence to farmyard animals (no cow, goat or cockerel was safe on set here) to keep the men in the audience engrossed.

I'm not sure this is exactly Oscar-winning material - the structure and pacing seemed a little odd at times, and the southern accents similarly wayward - but on the whole I found it entertaining and satisfying with another extremely watchable central performance from Nicole Kidman (the seemingly permanent flush in her cheeks in the final third of the film being particularly fetching).

White Stripes fans please note Jack White has a fairly small part (no wonder he's so angry, huh?) and is given little to do other than play the banjo, puke up a lot and validate the Renee Zellwegger character's sexuality. His southern can is so Zellwegg's in this film, and the (plot spoiler!) final scene has Renee sending Jackie boy to fetch some cider which he does while muttering away (I translated this as 'wait 'til I get my hands on that Jason Von Bondie for recommending me for this part' but that could just be my wishful hearing). All Hollywood blockbusters should climax with an indie rock icon being set a menial task in a humiliating fashion, don't you think?


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