By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Two men one woman.
Molly (Blythe Danner) is a free-spirited woman living in a small Texas town during the 1920’s. Gid (Anthony Perkins) and Johnny (Beau Bridges) are best friends who also both like her. Molly likes them as well, but can’t seem to decide which of the two she loves better, so to solve things she gets married to Eddie (Conard Fowkes). This doesn’t go over well with the other two, but as time goes by she continues to see them and even has children from both of them, which causes a stir in her small community. Not only does she become the product of the local gossip, but virtually ostracized as well. However, Molly is undeterred about what everyone else thinks and sticks to her independent ways.
Based on the Larry McMurtry novel the film was directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet, but you would hardly know it. The production looks cheap and rushed and lacks atmosphere or period detail. The scenes are flatly shot with very little visual design or imagination. The whole thing comes off as something that did not get any major studio backing and was forced to look to private investors for funding, which unfortunately was just not enough.
Filming it on location in Bastrop, Texas which is also the setting of the story helps a little as the town has many historical buildings, which heightens to some extent the period atmosphere, but I would’ve liked to have seen more of it. The dry Texas landscape is also nicely captured and makes the viewer feel like they are living in the state themselves with each and every shot. The one thing though that really impressed me was how realistically the characters aged as the story, which spans 40 years, progresses. In most films the actors are forced to wear a ton of makeup, which gets overdone, but here very little of it was used and it looked far better.
Danner, who these days is best known as the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, is excellent in a rare turn as a leading lady and even appears fully nude from the front and back. Perkins is solid in support and I enjoyed seeing Bridges with a bowl haircut. The star though that really steals it is Edward Binns as Perkins’ father whose caustic and to-the-point remarks are gems.
Fred Hellerman’s flavorful bluegrass score is pleasing, but the film itself fails to elicit much emotion. The only times that it does become mildly interesting is when the characters do a voice-over narration by reading off of passages lifted directly from its source material making me believe that this should never have been filmed in the first place and left simply in its novel format.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: April 14, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes
Director: Sidney Lumet
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video