How the West Was Spun: Brad Pitt Stars in a Downbeat Meditation on Fame and Criminality

By Gilbey, Ryan | New Statesman (1996), December 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

How the West Was Spun: Brad Pitt Stars in a Downbeat Meditation on Fame and Criminality


Gilbey, Ryan, New Statesman (1996)


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (15)

dir: Andrew Dominik

People often ask if the western is making a comeback, but a more pertinent question would be whether it's ever going to cheer up. The likes of Ride the High Country and McCabe and Mrs Miller set a precedent that kept the genre in a state of delirious melancholy for decades; watching these poetic laments for a bygone era can be like attending a wake. Now it's time to dig out the funeral clothes again for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a film so downbeat, cinemas should consider spiking the popcorn with Prozac.

The picture confines itself to the last year of Jesse James's life, when he was in hiding under a pseudonym. Brad Pitt gives a very un-Brad Pitt-like portrayal of the legendary bandit; you would have to go back to his days as an unsavoury character actor in Kalifornia or Twelve Monkeys to find a role more detached from his smug, glossy persona. Pitt captures the rueful disposition of a man watching the light change from his rocking chair and settling scores before his time runs out. He makes Jesse a cautious figure, alert to the smallest betrayal, who moves only if it can't be avoided--such as when he clubs a guard who stands between him and the safe he means to rob.

But when Pitt was named Best Actor for his performance at this year's Venice Film Festival, it was a case of right film, wrong recipient. I don't mean to begrudge him his award. It's just that anyone who sees this picture will agree it belongs to Casey Affleck, who gives a star-making performance as Jesse's eager-beaver sidekick Bob Ford. Nineteen-year-old Bob is 15 years Jesse's junior, and has idolised him throughout his childhood. The force of this worship gives him the confidence to ingratiate himself with the James gang, and even to become Jesse's house guest. Caressing the clothes in his hero's wardrobe, he's like a cowboy version of Mrs Danvers in Rebecca.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What the film, based on Ron Hansen's novel, tries to establish is how Bob went from fawning groupie to the man who put a bullet in Jesse's back. The lion's share of this explanation is borne by Affleck, who brings unimagined shadings to moments of simple joy or surliness. Whenever Bob receives Jesse's approval, Affleck cracks open a toothy smile that suggests sunlight breaking through storm clouds. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How the West Was Spun: Brad Pitt Stars in a Downbeat Meditation on Fame and Criminality
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.