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ALL THE PRETTY HORSES

SYNOPSIS:
John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) and his best friend Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) leave their Texan ranch and make way towards the Rio Grande. They cross paths with Jimmy (Lucas Black), a teenage misfit who has a mind of his own - a recipe for disaster. Cole and Rawlins start working on a ranch for a wealthy Mexican landowner Rocho (Ruben Blades), and soon Cole falls in love with his beautiful daughter Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). But in an age when a woman's reputation is all she has, the love affair is doomed from the beginning.

"The horses are certainly very pretty, and so is the scenery. In fact the scenery is spectacular. Rugged Texas and New Mexico settings with their barren landscape, open plains and mountainous terrains exude their own character. The stark beauty of nature coupled with the spirited wild horses are perhaps the highlights of Billy Bob Thornton's character driven odyssey. Although I haven't read the book, I suspect it is far more conducive to emotional response than its translation on the screen. Cinematic and visually splendid, Marty Stuart's sweeping soundtrack brings timbre and texture to the tale, but emotionally I still did not connect. Too much seems to be crammed into the story, and as a result, the film never flows, but feels fragmented. All the Pretty Horses is a coming of age story - a story about friendship, love and loyalty. Matt Damon is solid as the central character John Grady Cole, whose optimism and sense of adventure take him on a journey of discovery. It's a subtle role and Damon is the epitome of decency. Henry Thomas (you may remember him as 10 year old Elliott in Steven Spielberg's ET) and Lucas Black (the young boy from Sling Blade) are memorable as Cole's buddies, while Penelope Cruz is elusive as the Mexican rancher's daughter. Unfortunately the love affair between Cole and Alejandra never heats up: if there is any smouldering passion, it is so deeply submerged, that it never ignites. The film is a glorious feast for the eyes, but frankly I would have liked to have seen more of those extraordinary black, white, chocolate, tan, caramel and grey horses with their dashing manes, proud stances and soulful eyes. Magnificent, wild horses galloping unbridled over vast plains into the sunset…. a vision to dream about."
Louise Keller

”Billy Bob Thornton is a highly gifted actor, but so far (in my view) not much of a director. His first feature, Sling Blade, was one of the most overrated films of the 90s, labouring through more than two hours of painfully single-minded build-up to a thuddingly banal shock ending worthy of Stephen King. All The Pretty Horses has almost the opposite problem: based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy (which I haven't read) it's romantic in tone but weirdly scattered, giving only occasional hints of what drew Thornton to the clearly intractable source material. At the start, with two youthful cowboys riding across the Texan plains toward the Rio Grande, the imagery automatically suggests a classic Western, but much of the story refuses to fit this mould. Instead we get a mix of genres - romance, adventure, coming-of-age film - bound together by lush shots of landscapes and horses, plus a lot of gnomic crackerbarrel wisdom (it would be interesting to know how much of the dialogue in Ted Tally's script comes directly from McCarthy). Reports suggest that Thornton originally designed the film to run much longer, which presumably explains the narrative jumps, characters who appear and disappear abruptly, and rushed voiceover exposition during the opening credits. Matt Damon is also a problem: he's too old for the part, and for all his coy half-smiles and shy mumbling he's never persuasive as an archetype of boyish innocence. Still, some of the syntax of an epic remains in the alternation between vast craggy vistas and close-up faces that fill the screen, and the prevailing incoherence creates a dreamlike quality that's not all bad. Certain scenes will hang in my memory - John's taming of the wild mustangs, the glimpses of Alejandra from a distance on horseback, the death of the teenage outlaw Blevins - even if I'm not certain how they fit into a larger design. For that, I suppose I'll have to read the book.”
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (M)
(US)

CAST: Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Penelope Cruz, Ruben Blades

DIRECTOR: Billy Bob Thornton

PRODUCER: Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Salerno

SCRIPT: Ted Tally

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Markowitz

EDITOR: Sally Menke

MUSIC: Marty Stuart

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clark Hunter

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: November 7, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Home Entertainment







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