I'm well into my 70's and it seemed as though half the movies of my youth were westerns. So i'm tired of the typical approach. Who has something new for me?
Well, the Zellers deliver a comedic western that kept me involved the whole way through. Starting with an unusual looking character arriving in a rowboat with a crate holding a miniature palomino horse. He shows up in a town full of characters that make him seem almost normal.
It turns out he's there to meet a "preacher" and to find and marry the girl of his dreams. In the film intro we see him dancing with this girl. Well, it's been a couple years since his contact with her and his focus is such that he hasn't considered the girl might not be of like mind. When that turns out to be the case, it turns out he's become so obsessed with this marriage he's become downright delusional. Things, to put it mildly, don't go his way.
The Zellers seem to have a deft touch with delusional characters. In Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, Kumiko is beautifully portrayed with great empathy. Here, our "hero" is shown to be equally possessed, and while both characters meet their demise, I felt great empathy for both. Unlike Kumiko, our "hero" finds out what he wants will not be his. Even though he had no reasonable expectation of success, I still felt empathy for him.
The "Damsel" was played straight by Mia Wasikowska with no humor coming directly from her, and you can't blame her. I was reminded of the Coen Brothers True Grit and the way Hailee Steinfeld played Mattie Ross -- all business (even though her wicked sarcasm did elicit a few laughs). It created a great contrast to the rest of the not-so-usual characters.
I saw this film at The Baltimore Film Festival and can't wait to see it again. I know there were a number of funny spots and sight gags I missed the first time through. I also appreciated it for the Zellers' breaking of traditional western genre molds. While not as high on my list as the Coen's True Grit or Fred Schepisi's Barbarosa, Damsel is a worth addition to my "oddball western" list. It's also a worthy follower to the wonderful Kumiko. I'm going to keep my eye on the Zellers and can't wait for their next film!
28 out of 43 found this helpful