The Case for Lonesome Dove
This isn’t a movie review. There are plenty of those out there. This is me trying to convince you to spend six hours in the next week, or month, watching one of the greatest, most epic, movies of all time. And before you say, it’s too long and it’s a western… lemme tell ya, it’s not a western in the John Wayne or Clint Eastwood tradition, and by the time you finish it, you may find yourself wanting more.
Peaked your interest yet? Doubtful, so I’ll keep going. Like dramas? Like adventure? Like romance? Like seeing a young Diane Lane dressed-to-kill as a down-on-her-luck prostitute? Like a few tumbleweeds mixed with gun-play? If you said “yes” to even one of these questions, you’re going to love Lonesome Dove.
What makes it so great? The answer is simple. The characters. The entire cast is enormous so I’m just going to touch on a few. The two main characters are life-long friends, cattlemen (or at least they try to be), and retired, gun-slingin’, ex-Texas Rangers named Captain Woodrow F. Call, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and Augustus “Gus” McCrae, played by the legendary Robert Duvall. If you doubted these two guys’ chops prior to seeing Lonesome Dove, afterward, you’ll be saying they’re two of the best. Capt. Call and Gus have a great dynamic, one that’s rarely seen on the screen.
Woodrow F. Call is a hard man, in the tradition of John Wayne. He’s stoic, and honestly a bit of an asshole, but to anyone who knows (or thinks they know) anything about the Wild West, you couldn’t have a better guy leading your posse. He’s all business, start-to–finish, always keeps his word, and never backs down from a challenge.
But as authentic as Tommy Lee Jones is, it’s Duvall that really steals the show. He is brilliant as Gus McCrae – the prototype lazy, gamblin’, easy-going, womanizer, and perfect sidekick to the anal retentive Captain Call. He’s about the most likable old man you’ll find and the women (including a very young Diane Lane, and much older Angelica Huston) just can’t get enough of him. To quote McCrae, as he’s telling a story to the young Newt Dobbs (played by Rick Schroder), and being reprimanded by Captain Call for laziness:
Woodrow Call: You ever get tired o’ loafin’ I reckon you can get a job waitin’ on tables.
Gus McCrae: Oh, I had a job waitin’ tables once. S’ on a riverboat. I wasn’t no older than Newt, there, but I hadda give it up.
Newt: How come?
Gus McCrae: Well I was, too young and pretty and the whores wouldn’t let me alone.
As you can see Gus just oozes confidence and swagger and will keep you laughing the entire flick. Now the movie can be slow in parts, and some of the castings could have been a little better, but even so, it’s well worth your time. Granted, if you’re the type of person that goes and sees Tyler Perry’s House of whatever, or some date movie (cant think of an example at the moment) on opening night, this isn’t the movie for you. That sounds a little smarmy, but I’m just trying to be honest. If you thought Indiana Jones 4 was a good movie because the special effects rocked… you may want to pass this one up.
So why didn’t this movie get the critical acclaim that other movies of its caliber get? Well, my theory is that 1) it’s length turns a lot of people off 2) it was originally a mini-series on PBS so it didn’t really get the Hollywood treatment 3) the special effects and overall production design leave a little to be desired and 4) people automatically assume it’s a traditional Western 5) Wes Studi and Sam Elliot aren’t in it.
Finally, before this “short” blog entry turns into a six hour long essay, i want to list a few of the other casts members. In no particular order: Chris Cooper, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover, Robert Urich, Rick Shroder, Frederic Forrest, and Diane Lane. If anything, it’s worth watching just to see a young Diane Lane in action. *wink wink nudge nudge* note: she doesn’t actually get naked… so, your kids can watch this. There is some violence and a few gun fights but as we all knew, it’s much more acceptable to show people killing each other than having sex with each other. But that’s another one for another time.
So, maybe I am a bit biased. maybe you won’t all think it’s the bestest movie EVER, and i can guarantee there will be some slow parts, but if you like epic tales, with great actors, rich characters, and deep plots, along with a few 6-shooters and brothels, check it out!
below is the original short preview that was shown on PBS. Only 1 minute in length.