Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Last Picture Show (1971)


High school seniors Sonny Crawford (Timothy Buttons) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) must deal with the mundane day in and day out struggles of life, and love, in a small Texas town.

Certain movies I have to admit I'm never really sure of how to review. On one hand while watching them I find myself wavering back and forth between interest, and boredom, while the farther I get away from them the more I grow to love and appreciate them. The Last Picture Show is one of those rare cases where I find myself caught between my admiration for what it is, and my annoyance for how slow, and at times uninvolving, it can be. On all levels The Last Picture Show is two films in one. It's both a coming of age tale, and a city tale. It chronicles the struggles of teenage life, and the fall of a town after the death of its moral center, here embodied by Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson).

The moral center is an intriguing tale, in how following his removal, much of the film's characters begin to fall apart, and relationships developed crumbled under self pity, and boredom. The main characters all show varying signs of uncertainty with life, such uncertainty that was only partially there beforehand. It allows The Last Picture Show to elevate above boredom, and into the realm of character study. We see how Sonny and Duane deal with these various circumstances, how they act, and if they can ever truly grow as people. The turmoil they face is by no means simple, and each complication adds new layers to their personal struggles. Even still, it's by no means a perfect tale.

With inexperienced actors heading much of the central cast, at times I felt a bit detached from the emotion they were trying to display. As well a film about the boring existence of life in a small town is going to struggle to avoid being boring itself. Yet if you can get caught up in the characters, and there are a lot, you can find yourself whisked away for a couple of hours into this world. Sure it rambles on, and has long periods where very little happens, but such is life for these individuals. They, like the viewer, must find ways of getting through the various difficulties, and if they can do so, there is a more grand reward awaiting.

The Last Picture Show isn't going to captivate action audiences, especially not in modern terms, but overall it's a rewarding, and intriguing, look at the difficulties of a small town life.

3 better thoughts:

Marcy said...

I watched this film several years ago, after reading Roger Ebert's very persuasive and spectacular review. I thought it was the most boring film ever. I didn't care for any of the characters or their motives...they just didn't interest me.

But we just started this film in my forever mind-numbing film class and I found myself interested in the life of these small town folks. And throughout the film, I could hear my classmates giggling and in a way, The Last Picture Show is a rather funny film.

Great review, though. It is certainly an intriguing film.

Chase Kahn said...

I need to see this, it pains me to admit that I never have.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I'm surprised you gave it such a high grade, surprised but glad.

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