Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Moviewatch: "Down in the Valley"

"Down in the Valley"
Director: David Jacobson
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 77
In a Nutshell: Certainly one of the better and more interesting movies I've seen this year, a difficult to categorize drama that is, at heart, a revisionist Western, in similar ways to how "Brick" is a revisionist hard-boiled detective film. The game Jacobson's playing involves displacing icons of Western mythology -- Ed Norton plays Harlan, an "Aw shucks" guy who claims to be an old fashioned cowboy, complete with a snazzy white hat -- and reinterpreting them through the prism of the modern world in which the possibilities of expansion (a common Western trope) have been nearly exhausted. Housing developments and dessicated suburbs take the place of the frontier towns of the traditional Western. Evan Rachel Wood, proving herself far-and-away the best actress of her generation and possibly one of the best currently working of any age, plays Tobe, the young girl who falls for Harlan, with the always reliable David Morse as her predictably disapproving father. The film constantly backs itself into corners with one "Where the heck do they go from here?!?!?!?" moment after another and yet it acquits itself well with some fairly massive tone changes and plot developments. Like "Brick," "Down in the Valley" is likely to throw some viewers who aren't interested in embracing the conventions of a not-so-popular genre. It's really just great to see Ed Norton acting again. If you can just cover your ears and ignore the stories about his ego and his tendency to go into the editing room and rework his films, he's worth having around.

Check on Friday, May 12 for my full review.

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