Deadwood Passes Deadline

 DEADLINE:  the Un-Deadwood Movie

Olyphant Olyphant

The movie sequel to the three-season HBO series Deadwood is not dead as a doornail after all. It’s not even moribund.

HBO gunned it down ten years ago in a shootout shout-out, and it took as much time for writer/producer David Milch to resurrect it with nearly the entire original cast. (Powers Boothe left us a few years ago, and he is not noticed or mentioned here).

For two weeks we have heard the words “Shakespearean” applied again and again to this Western. Yes, they talk funny with Swearingen leading the way with swearing in iambic pentameter. Ian McShane is the scene-stealer emeritus.

An odd thing happens when a show tries to reset after the sunset: actors either look like they have aged twenty years, not ten, or others look like they had to step out of a time machine to reappear.

A few flashbacks remind us of how much the actors have changed in a decade.

We won’t spoil it by saying who looks ancient, and who held up. That may be the real suspense. Suffice it to say that boyish Timothy Olyphant has aged into Western star Sam Elliott, one of his old villains from Justified.

Others like William Sanderson and Jeffrey Jones have looked perennially old for 30 years. No news here.

As for the characters and characterizations, everyone is the same, just moreso. Perhaps that is the real secret of aging: you just get worse in your worst habits.

As for the script that has rankled some fans, you will have to understand that these kind of shows usually center upon birth, marriage, funerals, auctions, and deaths. Yup, we have them all in spades.

Deadwood’s statehood celebration is crashed by Gerald McRaney, the house villain, who returns as a California Senator Hearst who brings the 19th century Internet with him: yes, he is putting up telephone poles for profit.

Fear not. It is still the wilder West and shoot-outs are bound to occur near the local bordello.

Robin Weigert’s Calamity Jane looks like she is caked in dirt, but she was already an international celebrity by the time of this show (1889).

Many characters don’t have much to do—and do it for a few lines.

We wouldn’t have missed this reunion show for the world of kindling wood, nor dead heroes. It even beats having Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty show up twenty years after their show Gunsmoke ended in a sequel movie.

The West never loses its allure.

Sam Elliott’s Hero within a Hero

 DATELINE:  Movies for the Older Audience

 Elliot & Ross The Hero    Katherine Ross & Sam Elliot

Film director Brett Haley seems to have cornered the senior citizen/golden-ager demographic with his latest film, The Hero.

It stars aged in wood cowboy actor Sam Elliot as an aged in wood cowboy star.

You couldn’t ask for a better representative of the old-fashioned saddletrap. Elliot relives part of his career with clips from a movie-within-a-movie called The Hero.

Whether he turns out to be the hero of his own life, the pages of Edna St. Vincent Millay may show. We are a sap when it comes to movies that use metaphors from Edna, as one of her bittersweet poems dominates the movie’s climax.

The film is partially based on Elliott and his career. Indeed, his wife Katharine Ross makes a rare film appearance as his ex-wife. She looks marvelous, but director Haley seems to give old stars a rebirth (see his earlier I’ll See You in My Dreams, with Barbara Bain, Mariette Hartley, and Elliott).

And, the plot revolves around his friendship with an old costar from a benighted TV series and his alienated daughter who is a bitter by-product of his past life.

Director Haley scores again with the geriatric performers. Max Gail shows up as the head of a Western fan movie group that honors the lead character with a ‘lifetime achievement’ award that no one has ever heard of. An aging fanbase hangs on for words of wisdom.

Silver-haired and silver-throated Sam Elliott’s Hero cowboy must face the grim diagnosis of his doctor and still maintain his star quality and prideful heroism. This is a masterful job of movie-making—but likely will be wasted on young viewers. It will resonate with generations of long ago.

 

Dreams of Younger Days Won’t Cut It

DATELINE:  Aged in Wood

 sam & blythe

I’ll See You in My Dreams is an old song, but is not the one you expect to hear in the story.

Director Brett Haley presents us with a picture of growing old in Los Angeles, if you are rich and healthy. But, don’t be fooled. It’s no bed of roses for those with privilege and pleasant lives in the waiting room for the Grim Reaper. It’s still a dead end.

Blythe Danner plays an old lady named Carol, but she is way too beautiful, even in her 70s. She also seems to be playing Diane Keaton in terms of wardrobe. After the death of her husband, she took to a retirement community, high-end living to say the least, and for twenty years filled her life with bridge club, a dog, her daughter, and a pool boy, not necessarily in that order.

Still, much is missing in life. There is a motif of a rat running around her beautiful home that drives her outside periodically.

The 35-year-old pool boy may be half her age and in one of those millennial crisis, but he sees her powerful, past talent as a chanteuse. Indeed, Danner gives a wonderful rendition of “Cry Me a River” to prove the point.

Dropping by the film are old faces, once familiar TV staples, like Max Gail, Mary Kay Place, and Rhea Pearlman, which seems to increase audience depression.

The low-budget film will not win over the young set, but who needs to? This is a bittersweet story of whether geriatric romance is worth the tumble. It is done all too tastefully, as these are not desperate, grubby people

When distinguished and wry Sam Elliott shows up with plenty of money, we realize that old age is meant to be lived with wealth and health. Heaven forefend you lose those.

There is something of resignation in the message that Haley seems to present in this highly polished movie that was filmed in three weeks. When you have old professionals, you can fly through a script.

Well-done on all levels and sobering tale of love and loss.