Lone Pine Film Festival was APPALOOSA (2008).
APPALOOSA, a much more recent film than the majority of the films shown at the festival, was screened with co-writer and co-producer Robert Knott in attendance. The movie was co-written, co-produced, and directed by its star, Ed Harris.
I had been a little unsure about trying APPALOOSA, as R-rated movies are fairly rare for me, but it's a movie my dad liked so I decided to give it a try. As it turned out I enjoyed it a great deal, and I think other fans of classic-era Westerns would enjoy it as well.
(And to take care of my usual Parental Advisory for "newer" movies up front, APPALOOSA is rated R for some brief language, violence, and rear-view nudity seen at a distance. In my opinion it's very close to a PG-13 and would probably be fine for mature teens under 17.)
APPALOOSA was based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, whose writing also inspired a TV series I enjoy, SPENSER: FOR HIRE. Like SPENSER, APPALOOSA is first and foremost a character study, though there's plenty of action as well.
Meanwhile a woman named Allie French (Renee Zellweger) gets off the train in Appaloosa. She has little in her purse but immediately intrigues both Virgil and Everett, with Virgil awkwardly but successfully courting her. What seems as though it will be a quick, straightforward happy ending for the pair, who set about building a little house in town, turns out to be considerably more complicated, as Allie latches on to a succession of men and even makes a play for Everett.
At 115 minutes the movie goes on just a beat too long, with another sequence after what seems a natural ending point, but all in all this was a very good movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of Harris and Mortensen in particular, both their humorous repartee and also the unspoken interactions of men who have known each other for many years.
I also found it interesting that a scene where Virgil has, shall we say, "anger management issues" and is restrained by Everett isn't developed further. It seemed as though that moment was setting up something deeper to be explored in the character, but they never end up going there.
What intrigued me more than Allie herself was the very interesting way Virgil and Everett dealt with her, including Virgil taking Everett's word over Allie's at a key moment near the end. It got a nice chuckle from the audience.
APPALOOSA was filmed by Dean Semler.
Despite any quibbles, all in all I thought this was a very good film which I look forward to seeing again in the future.
I regretfully chose not to stay for the Q&A ssession with Robert Knott, as I was pretty tired after a very full 48 hours at the festival!
APPALOOSA is available in a low-priced widescreen DVD. It can also be rented for streaming from Amazon; there's a trailer at the Amazon link.