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Molly Wood arrives in a small western town to be the new schoolmarm. The Virginian, foreman on a local ranch, takes a shine to her, and vows that he will make her love him. The Virginian's ... See full summary »
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The "that" is "son of a bitch". In the era in which the story occurs (~1875), one did not call someone an SOB without expecting to be punched out. It was, however, acceptable for friends to call each other SOBs, in good humor. Hence, "Smile when you call me that." See more »
When the Virginian gets shot by the rustlers, and falls off of his horse, the position of his arm and head changes between camera angles. See more »
Realistic Western with great locations and score, but hampered by low-budget
Released in 2000, "The Virginian" was the fifth movie version of the 1902 novel by Owen Wister. Bill Pullman directs and plays the titular character, a cowboy promoted to foreman on a remote Wyoming ranch. He falls for a schoolmarm newly-arrived from back East (Diane Lane) who's shocked by the "uncivilized" violence and justice she observes. John Savage plays the best friend while Colm Feore plays the main villain. Harris Yulin and Dennis Weaver are on hand as the big ranch owners.
This is the only film version of the story I've seen and, I'll be honest, it's a hard movie to catch a grip with. To appreciate it you have to bear with the first half, paying close attention to the mumbling dialogue, which paves the way for a worthwhile second half. Also keep in mind that this isn't a rollicking shoot-'em-up Western; it's more of a realistic drama in the Old West with flashes of Western staples, like hanging rustlers and saloon confrontations. It has the look and tone of 2003' "Open Range," but lacks the budget, since it was made-for-cable (TNT). While I love rousing Westerns when they're done right, like 2002's "American Outlaws," I prefer the more realistic approach, like 1990's "Dances With Wolves" or 1992's "Unforgiven." "The Virginian" is similar in tone and locale to these movies, but is hampered by its TV-budget.
The good news is that the locations, cast, cinematography, score and plot are all top caliber; unfortunately, the low-budget is glaring at times. For instance, there's a scene where the cowboys are forced to bring some horses down a steep hill and the entire sequence comes off awkward. I'm sure director Pullman felt the same way and tried his best to make it make sense in the editing room. With a higher budget he could've taken more time shooting that particular scene or done reshoots, but with the limited funds he had to make do with what he had. There are other scenes where I had to stop and think, "Okay, what's really going on here" and was eventually able to figure it out. This occasional lack of clarity was probably the result of cramming a 300-page book into a 95-minute movie.
The above explains my relatively low rating (6/10), but I'm still giving it a marginal thumbs-up because the movie's very worthwhile if you're willing to put in the time and effort. Somewhere during the second half I stopped TRYING to like it and was involved with the story and appreciated the filmmaking (photography, music, actors, etc.); I was just focusing on understanding the dialogue.
The schoolmarm and the government agents represent the encroachment of civilization to tame the West and men like the Virginian. The former succeeds while the latter can't handle the sometimes savage environment and suffer accordingly. While the protagonist understandably falls to the charms of the former the failure of the latter leaves him no recourse but to carry out justice, Western style.
The film was shot in Alberta, Canada.
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