I dragged the funWife off to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford last friday night based on the recommendation of this review at Libertas. I was entranced by the film, the funWife compared it to The Horse Whisperer – the longest, most pointless, boringest movie ever made, let alone conceived. So there you have it – two people, one movie, diametrically opposed viewpoints.

The movie is long, almost 3 hours, but I was mesmerized the entire time. The train robbery scene is simply the most visually stunning art I can recall seeing in a movie theater. Compelling characters, stunning visuals, a laconic pace that allows characters to not just flower but bear fruit as well – what’s not to like? I have to wonder, though, if part of the attraction of this movie is that there are so few like it made anymore.

I wish Hollywood made more movies like this – big, sprawling, character driven. This movie is Brad Pitt’s best work (yes, I know that’s not saying much) but sorry girls not only does he keep his clothes on, he’s usually wearing a large hairy coat. Casey Affleck is amazing, the rest of the cast outstanding, the Missouri countryside never more beautiful (too bad it wasn’t shot on location).

The only sour note was the casting of James Carville as the governor of Missouri. His appearance brought a laugh from the Missouri audience, and his line “my wife has told me I’ve talked long enough” (I bet she, i.e. Mary Matalan, has) and it was jarring in a movie that was otherwise so immersive in the time period.

I was surprised the film could generate as much tension as it did when you know what is going to happen, although the chunk of the movie after the “assassination” was a revelation. What a sad testament to the state of Hollywood today that a movie like this is relegated to art houses. Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with a grown up movie. Trust your audience, and we’ll both be rewarded.