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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jane Got a Gun - A Film Review

I went to see Jane Got a Gun today (directed by Gavin O'Connor), and found it really boring. I was interested because I wanted to support a female-led western movie, and because the trailer made Natalie Portman look like a badass, defending her family against a murderous gang and getting her guns ready. It looked like a different role for her, and it looked exciting.

Instead, the movie was dull as hell.

There were several problems with this movie. I will start with Portman, because she is the star and co-produced the movie. She is nearly 35, but still looks like a young ingénue. She doesn't come off as being tough or having seen hardship in life. I could see other actresses of petite size being more convincing in Westerns: Salma Hayek, Holly Hunter, and Jodie Foster. They are small, but come off as tough and strong and having had more harder life experiences beyond their initial privilege (beauty, wealth). Portman, to me, seems to have had a life without real struggles. She made it big as a kid and successfully transitioned to an adult acting career, she comes from an upper-class family and likely would've made it into Harvard without her fame, and she comes off as fairly sheltered in an elite world. She tried, but she didn't seem gritty enough to be believable as someone who has to fight to survive in the Old West. Jane seemed defined by her relationships to men than by her individual self, whereas it should have been a story about a passive housewife taking control and fighting for her family's survival, discovering her own strength and power in the process.

Joel Edgerton was totally forgettable as Dan, Jane's former fiancé. He just stood around like a blank piece of wood, and he could have been switched out with another dull Aussie actor like Sam Worthington and I wouldn't have known the difference. I barely knew anything about his character, as he had no personality, and seemed like he just blended into the desert background. And it took me nearly a half hour into the movie before I realized that Jane and Dan were supposed to be a formerly engaged couple. They had no chemistry whatsoever, and acted like they were just barely above being strangers in their interactions, they often came off as cold and remote to each other. (I think the only time Portman has had great chemistry with a man onscreen has been with Jean Reno in Leon when she was 12, and that is kind of sad and messed-up).

Ewan McGregor was terrible in this as the villain, Colin. I didn't realize it was him until about a quarter into the movie, and that explained why I thought his Southwest accent sounded weird. McGregor is a great actor, but is terrible at American accents. He did OK with a Southern accent in Big Fish, but otherwise, he sounds strained and flat when trying to sound American. He sounds charming with his real voice, and cute with a British accent, he should just stop accepting roles as American characters. Nothing about his character struck me as interesting, and I'd rather switch him out for Ian McShane as his version of Al Swearengen from Deadwood.

The story felt pointless, and without real stakes. In it, Portman's character Jane has a husband named Bill (Noah Emmerich, who gave a decent performance in the little screentime that he had) who got shot up in a battle with Colin's gang, and are coming in to finish the job. Jane reaches out to Dan for support and manpower. The movie made it seem as if Jane was going to be the lone hero, but her former fiancé did more of the action than she did, with shooting and driving the story forward. It felt more like it was a story about these men fighting with each other and an innocent woman getting caught in the middle, and only getting her hero moment at the very end, which felt anticlimactic. There were often long pauses in conversations between characters, which often came off like dead air, like nobody had any deep connection or history with one another, and just stood around waiting for things to happen. The movie was too quiet, with long stretches of boring conversation set against the desert background (which did look very beautiful and expansive, so the stellar cinematography can be credited for that).

It isn't the worst movie that I've seen, it is just very boring and forgettable. I don't recommend it at all. And the title is weak, and rips off an Aerosmith song title, a song which packed in way more hard drama and heavy emotion in a few minutes than this movie did in 90.

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