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"Cold Mountain"

Directed by Anthony Minghella.
Written by Anthony Minghella.  Based on the book by Charles Frazier.
Starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  12/30/03 


It’s been a long year.  Lot of movies.  DAMNED lot of movies.  I thought it best to end the year with a movie that would have a surefire shot at the Oscar, so “Cold Mountain” was the perfect choice...on paper.

Once the film begins, though, you realize that “Cold Mountain” is such a...well, film that it takes someone lost in its luster to be able to put up with some of its horseshit melodrama.  A purported love story, the Civil War plot follows a Southerner named Inman (Jude Law) as he makes his quest from Petersburg, Virginia to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to see a woman named Ada (Nicole Kidman).  You see, Inman is a soldier for the South, but after Petersburg, he deserts his fellow men because the picture he carries around of Ada makes him yearn for the peace and tranquility—


Well, I can’t really say that.  Sure, I didn’t read the book, but I always enjoy movie caricatures of “the wise woman” (Yoda was not available, so in “Cold Mountain” it’s a crazy woman that kills goats and somehow nurses a dying Inman back to life), “the dirty sheriff” (Ron Winstone, who starred in “Sexy Beast”, perfect), and “the spunky sidekick” (Renee Zellweger as Ruby, who will assuredly garner an Oscar nomination for this work even if I think she shouldn’t; I feel like I say that every year, and I actually like her as an actress).  And, I like to turn the brain off at the movies sometimes, and for that, “Cold Mountain” is very kind.  When Ada’s father (Donald Sutherland) dies off early in the film, I was laughing so hard I was embarrassing the old woman sitting two seats over.  Seriously, he is sitting outside in a chair, it’s starting to rain, and his line was so “I’ll be dead in the next frame” I really was laughing out loud.

See, I don’t do well with spoken dialogue that is just too romantic or poignant.  Many of Zellweger’s lines come off like that once she is introduced 45 minutes into the film.  During one dramatic sequence, a woman is tied to her fence after witnessing a brutal murder, and Ruby uttered something so script-perfect, I shared the same stunned look that Ada did in the scene.  Question to anyone that has read the book:  was Ruby that over-the-top in the book?  She becomes almost unfathomably annoying by the time the film is over.  Also, one character looks at Ada—played by the same Kidman that has weighed 110 pounds in ALL of her films—mid-picture and says something to the effect of

“Oh, come here woman, you look like you haven’t eaten in days!”

and I almost stood up and said “It’s NICOLE FUCKING KIDMAN, PEOPLE!”  I didn’t remember her looking plump in the early-going, and then we get someone claiming she looked thinner???

On the flipside of all of this, director Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) delivers a film that is incredibly beautiful to look at, even though the sex scene here is light petting at best.  The film, shot all over Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, has great-looking work in rain, in snow, during the day and naturally at night.  The opening battle sequence is tough to watch (camera-wise) but the tension is there; supporting work by Winstone, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi and many others is very solid.  It’s the kind of film—a sweeping romantic war epic with big stars—that appeals to the 40+ set...which almost assures that it will be nominated for Best Picture in a month.

Much like “Seabiscuit”, this is the kind of film that folks in the younger set won’t love, but it will be a big winner come Oscar time.

Rating:  Matinee

postscript, 1/04:  Although I thought that only a small portion of "Cold Mountain" was shot in Romania, it turns out that a shitload of it was shot over there, with only some coverage shots being done in the US.  Lesson: don't believe the credits, EVER.


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09