19 June 2012 | StevePulaski
A sentimental film about things seemingly not
There are numerous directions Clint Eastwood and screenwriter John Lee Hancock could've taken in his film, A Perfect World, and the one he sucks up and follows is a brave, endearing roller-coaster of emotion, sentiment, and commentary all providing slick and clean moments robbed of mawkish sequences. This is the seventeenth directing effort by Eastwood himself, cementing the fact that the question of whether or not he is a better actor or director can never be answered. There are far too many examples to back up both.
A Perfect World begins by showing us a deeply depraved, saddening family of devout Jehovah's Witnesses. Phillip Perry (T.J. Lowther) is a young boy, victim to not having birthdays, holidays, or events that pack in true joy for a child because of his mother's preposterous rules. His two sisters are too the victims. When a robbery is committed in the house, Kevin Costner's "Butch" Haynes takes the kid as a hostage, and Butch's loudmouth partner just waves a gun around and causes mayhem.
When he is finally abandoned long after the robbery, Butch and Phillip discover they have a lot more in common with each other than they could've imagined. Butch's dad was never around, and his mother was a prostitute, accompanied by men they couldn't care less about him. Phillip's dad is a simple deadbeat, never there and never going to be. The film shows how destructive and possibly dehumanizing it can be without a prominent male influence in your life. I'm blessed to have two caring parents and that has helped me in more ways than I can imagine.
It's big shame that many grow up today fatherless. An argument could be made about what is tougher; growing up with no mother, or no father. Without a father, you don't get the "time to be a man" talk, you never feel you can ask personal body questions to anyone, and this leads to the lack of parental supervision, causing kids to perhaps meander the streets aimlessly. Without a mother, you've lost the softness every person must occupy. You lack the necessity of, maybe, truly being safe and cared for. Sure a man could do so, but answer me this; when children cry, do they want mommy or daddy? I've trailed off course. A subplot of A Perfect World involves Eastwood's Texas Ranger Red Garnett and his crew on hot pursuit, destined to find Butch and Phillip. The subplot sounded so obligatory on paper, but writer Hancock is intelligent about keeping it a minimal occurrence. Not to mention, it isn't as intrusive or as dopey as it seems. It's actually taken with a lot of seriousness and heart.
Performance-wise, the film is around the clock superb. Much acclaim is due to Costner's character, who is serenely nuanced enough to make a true, memorable character. He has an outer-layer of cruelty but an inner layer of gooey anti-cynicism which comes forth very quickly. T.J. Lowther is spunky and charismatic as little Phillip, and Eastwood, do I even need to say it? Is incredible.
A Perfect World may extend a bit over the recommended time limit, but few, few spots are dry, the script is always attentive, and the casting and directing style of Eastwood is fitting and balanced. This is probably Costner's most dedicated and engaging performances, yet due to the moderate box office receipts and the minimal impact, it has likely made him reconsider serious roles. Same thing could possibly go for Robert De Niro. It's undoubtedly easier to immerse yourself into a character that is thin, vacuous, and dull than one that is developed, deep, and potential-ridden. Eastwood has made a sentimental gem of a picture, with topics that hit seemingly hit every note but.
Starring: Kevin Costner, T.J. Lowther, and Clint Eastwood. Directed by: Clint Eastwood.