This movie is a startling oasis in a summer of the action cartoons Hollywood feeds the public in the belief that the entire nation goes brain-dead for three months.

LONE STAR

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


If hard work brings sweet rewards, "Lone Star" is sweet indeed. You will wish John Sayles had tacked a family tree in the corner of the screen to help you track the subplots and sort the characters. This is a very complicated story. It is also very good.

Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) is sheriff of Rio County, a Texas border town with an ethnically diverse population and a heritage of resentment. Mexicans, Indians, blacks, and whites all live with the multilayered ramifications of the legacy that Texas was a slave state when it joined the union. And they live, now and then, with men who stride through town with the arrogance of perceived superiority.

Such a one was Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson), a cruel bigot who tormented and often murdered anyone who happened to annoy him. Two decades later, Wade's bleached bones are found in the desert sand. The question of who exacted the understandable revenge is the central mystery of the movie.

Wade's successor was Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey), legendary good guy and father of present day sheriff Sam. Sam, toiling in the shadow of his famous father, investigates, knowing well it might have been his own father who murdered the monstrous Charlie Wade. The good and gentle Sam unravels the mystery layer by layer, and as he does, the culture of his town is laid open too.

In the rich human mix of Rio County you will meet a black army colonel, a Mexican restaurant owner, and plenty of good and bad Texans--all of them fully drawn characters. In the middle of the cultural confusion, Pilar (Elizabeth Pena), a strong young Mexican teacher, tries to guide her students through the charged emotions and events that make up their history. Many threads of historical perspective are interwoven daily in this border town where black, hispanic, and white alike hold power.

John Sayles has used a uniformly excellent cast to convey the deeply complicated chaos of theTexas/Mexican heritage, speaking the harsh truths of a cruel legacy. His complex portraits are sketched with strong, spare strokes. Elizabeth Pena and Chris Cooper give subtle, intelligent performances as Pilar and Sam, and they are supported all the way by the strength of their peers. Kris Kristofferson is chillingly good as the essence of scorn.

Sayles's technique of cutting back and forth between past and present, the main plot and subplots, is confusing. Was that the grandfather or the grandson? The lover or the mother? I am still wondering what happened to a fellow under a bridge, and basking in the pleasure of caring so much. When Sayles finally pulls everything together in a stunning conclusion, the exhilaration of clarity settles over the audience.

This movie is a startling oasis in a summer of the action cartoons Hollywood feeds the public in the belief that the entire nation goes brain-dead for three months. Thank you, John Sayles.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Castle Rock
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h18m


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