Sorry, Clovis, I just can’t agree: New Mexico doesn’t make a great Texas, and this is not an Oscar-worthy movie. I checked out a few other movie reviews, however, and I seem to be the only person on the planet who thinks this movie is pretty much a pile of stereotypes and clichés, forced acting, contrived flat characters, and really messed up geography. I think the emperor’s new clothes syndrome is running rampant here: the movie is a fraud but no one is willing to admit it.
I’m sure it was an exciting time for residents of Clovis and Portales as the movie was being filmed there and even more fun watching the movie and recognizing parts of their city on screen. I get that; it is fun to feel like you are privy to the inner workings of the movie. But perhaps they were so busy pointing out familiar streets and buildings they failed to notice the flaws I found so frustrating.
To begin with, it was as if the writer, Taylor Sheridan, made a list of Texas stereotypes and checked them off as he wrote them in. Mention Texas A&M, University of Texas, and football; check. Make sure the characters drink Lone Star and Shiner beer; check. Promote the notion that Texans all ride horses to town and have an oil well in the back yard; check. Definitely have lots of incorrect grammar and trite little folksy sayings thrown in for good measure. Stage a gun fight between the locals and the bank robbers since all Texans carry guns. And don’t forget to include a totally superfluous scene of cowboys on horseback moving cattle across the road from one pasture to another. That scene had nothing to do with the story line, happens very seldom these days and usually in areas like the Four Sixes Ranch, and wouldn’t have cowboys whining and making cynical remarks to strangers about cowboying for a living-cowboys are a special breed who choose to be on horseback.
And then there is the geography that is just a total wreck. Jeff Bridges makes a comment about how he loves West Texas, but Lubbock, and maybe Post, are the only towns even remotely considered West Texas, and I was told when we moved here that Lubbock is part of the High Plains. Olney is in North Texas, as is Archer City, which was probably chosen because Hollywood has heard of that little town because of Larry McMurtry. Childress is way off in the Panhandle, and Coleman is in the Texas Hill Country, for crying out loud! The bank robbers and the rangers would have spent all their time driving if in fact they were traveling to and from these towns. Texas is a big state. If someone had bothered to look at a real map and not Google Texas on their phone, looked at the big picture, it might have helped. I realize that most movie-goers won’t know the difference and really don’t care, but if the writer wanted the story to be credible, how hard would it have been to get the geography right? Apparently too hard to bother with.
I guess part of the reason this aggravates me so is that Muleshoe is near Clovis, and I know what the area looks like. I have also spent time in all the Texas towns identified in this story and know they look nothing like this part of New Mexico. So I wish they would have at least bothered to try a little harder, maybe send someone to Coleman to take a shot of the real city limit sign instead of just plopping down a sign somewhere in New Mexico thinking that was good enough. I realize movies are shot on locations other than the real setting of the story for a variety of reasons, but I wish they would at least bother to make it believable. No; New Mexico does not make a good Texas.
All this wonderful acting and characterization other reviewers swooned over came across to me as forced, flat acting that was very unconvincing. Jeff Bridges may have looked the part, but other than that, he wasn’t that great. I read something about the lighthearted teasing by Jeff Bridges’ ranger of his half-Indian partner; it didn’t sound very lighthearted to me and judging from the reaction of partner Gil Birmingham, it wasn’t much fun for him, either. Seems like if it was all in fun, the partner would have responded in kind. The dark-haired waitress that befriended Toby was tolerable, but the ‘’”tell me what you don’t want” waitress was just a bit much. Toby’s estranged wife was one-dimensional, mean-spirited, and added nothing to the mix.
The relationship between the brothers didn’t ring true for me, either. The sundown scene where they are sort of rough-housing in silhouette looked pretty contrived. And I wondered how long it would have taken them in real life to dig those graves for the two get-away cars with the tractor and front-end loader they used. I think it would have taken more equipment than that. They went through a lot of vehicles. Maybe if they had spent less on cars and more on loan payments, they would have been better off financially. I’m also not real sure how it is that they have an oil well on the property but can’t make the payments to keep the property. Either no one bothered to add dialogue to explain that, they mumbled those lines, or my fancy new hearing aids weren’t working very well.
One line that did ring true, however, was spoken at the end of the movie when Bridges visits the home of bank robber Chris Pine. Pine’s character Toby makes a comment about taking care of his family, to which Bridges responds that his partner had a family to take care of, too, and they don’t have an oil well (the pump jack so prominently displayed to the side of the house) in their back yard. Toby may have helped his family, but another family was hurt in the process.
I did appreciate Bridges’ grief at the loss of the partner, but then that also set up the scene for him to take out the bank robber Tanner, which was an easy way for Tanner take the fall since he was the evil brother and let Toby go free.
Banks are made out to be the bad guys here, and I know there are unscrupulous bankers out there-bad apples can be found in any profession-so I guess I didn’t catch the lines that might have explained how it was all the bank’s fault that they were going to be foreclosed on. But I always thought the deal was that the bank makes you a loan in good faith with the understanding you will pay back that loan, and that is what you do, or they have the right to foreclose. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work? I’m pretty sure banks are not the only reason small towns are drying up and fading away, and the movie seemed to imply that banks shoulder all the blame. I don’t think so.
Opinions of movies are subjective, of course, and you may think this is a wonderful movie. And that is certainly your right. If I lived in Clovis, perhaps I would think it is a great movie, too.
I seem to be the lone voice of dissent here, but I stand by my review. Watch it again when it comes to HBO or Showtime and see if you still think it is all that good.