30 April 2003 | jmh2350
Bad Movie Title, Excellent Movie
The title is kind of dumb for this movie that is very good. Dumb title, because it's not about a horseman coming -- it's about 3 cattle ranchers in Montana (though at least some filming was done in Northern Arizona). Jason Robards is the heavy, as the rancher who owns the most and wants to regain control of the other 2 ranches, which his family once owned. One of the other ranches is owned by Jane Fonda, who gained control of it when her father, a cousin of Jason Robards, died, and whose only help running it is an old cowhand played by the late Richard Farnsworth (for which he received an Academy Award nomination). The other cattle spread is owned by James Caan, recently released from the Army near the end of WWII. Inside Fonda burns a deeply rooted and awful hatred of Robards, for which we gradually learn the reasons. She and Caan form what is at first an alliance of need and indebtedness, which as you might correctly assume develops into something deeper (and nicer, I might add). Throw into this mix a rich oilman played by George Grizzard, who wants to get oil out of the land wherever he finds it, regardless of whose land it is, and who exerts some mighty strong leverage against Robards. What makes this movie good is an interesting plot, made more interesting by the actors -- Fonda and Caan in particular play their roles as authentic western ranch types, as people of relatively few words, with easy-going outward appearances, but strong emotions underlying those facades and hard-edged attitudes attained through a rugged life of hard work. This was one of 3 movies in 1978 for Jane Fonda, one of which being "Coming Home" for which she won an Academy Award. A comparison of her acting in that movie vs. this one, is that this role required more nuance and subtlety, to hold her character's emotions in (which of course she in turn must convey to us, the audience), as she had to completely become a stoic western rancher and horsewoman...which also required greater physical (including facial) control and physical agility. Regardless of which of these 2 major starring roles one might prefer her in that year, it seems obvious that she was at the top of her form. Also to be admired in this film are the cattle herding, roping, and round-up sequences, and one major sequence of chasing and gaining control of stampeding cattle -- the scenes look real, and were obviously done by some professional cowboys. There's also the big, open feel of the country provided by the beautiful cinematography of Gordon Willis, whose movies include "The Godfather" films and Woody Allen's fabulous 1979 black-and-white masterpiece "Manhattan". So, plenty of good reasons to watch this one.