30 January 2004 | TumnusFalls
Grand, sweeping, sad, joyful, alive
Lonesome Dove tells the story of friendship, love, tragedy, life, change, the frontier, the passing of generations.
Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call are retired Texan Rangers, holed up in the small, dusty south Texas town of Lonesome Dove, a town with less going on than the nearby Rio Grande. Some prodding by a former partner gets them off their front porch and up in the saddle again, guiding a herd of cattle and of horses, a passle of men, a boy, and a lady of the night. They off and go to Montana, along the way meeting death, life, former loves and new loves, and witnessing the closing of the American frontier.
This film is six hours long, if you think of things that way, but really, it's far too short. You want to stop the film and get on your own horse to ride along with Gus and Woodrow. Yeah, it would be tough, but you know that Gus and Woodrow would be faithful friend who'd have the gumption to tell you the truth, even if it hurt a bit or a lot.
You'd miss a lot if you think of this film as simply a `show' or even entertainment. It captures your imagination, and helps you see what life was like 120 years ago - in some cases nasty, brutish, and short, but in other cases full of love, wonder, tenderness, compassion, and hope. The film doesn't dwell on the gore, but it doesn't hide it. Life on the frontier was tough, wearing on the body and mind, and relentlessly unforgiving of the weak, mistaken, and mislead. You -died- on the frontier, and death wasn't always easy. But along the way you live in breathtaking beauty. You get to see the world your hands make - you build your life from the dirt on the ground and the trees on the hill.
Gus and Woodrow ARE Texas Rangers, two men as different from each other as can be. Gus enjoys life, and seeks to chase buffalo just for the fun of it. Woodrow sees life as something to fight, to prepare for its certain triumph, but still manages to be a loyal, faithful, and loving friend. They interact with each other and the grand sweep of people along the way to Montana.
As far as performances, Robert Duvall is an American treasure. I've seen him in many movies, but never knew he was Augustus McCrae until I watched this show. There are just some roles that are designed to fit a particular character. Tommy Lee Jones is cryptic, laconic, guarded, and yet completely tender. You believe he believes he's tough, and you know he knows he's not. Ricky Schroeder plays Newt, Woodrow's unacknowledged son. Diana Lane is Lorena, the 'lady of the night,' and does a good job with her limited role. Anjelica Huston is fine - but of the main players, she's the one I had the least empathy with, mostly because in her other roles she plays someone with a darker and richer voice - in this show she is a tight-voiced soprano with a twang. Had I not seen her in shows, I think I would have believed her better. Chris Cooper plays the dithering sheriff who grows up a bit through the film; his wife, played by Glenne Headley, is very guarded in whom she loves, and it's not Chris Cooper. Robert Urich is Jake, the former saddle-mate of Gus and Woodrow, and Danny Glover is Deets, another partner.
Sure, it's a sad film in some ways. Some major players die, and some other players do not rise to the level of their situation. You want to reach in and simply -shake- some of the characters. But they reflect more closely what real people are like, and not so much what people are like when forced to play along with a happy ending.
But even with its sadness, it's a film full of life. Gus McCrae simply enjoys- every bit of what he goes through.
Get the DVD so you can appreciate the backstory.