I never dreamed I would see this movie – I rolled my eyes at every preview, groaned in agony at the triumph-of-the-human spirit arm waving by the little girl in the show. I shuddered to be subjected to a love affair between a human saddlebag and a human iceberg. But one of my best friends “had” to see it since she’s moving to Montana so what can I do?
My primary complaint was the score, and the pace. But I’ll get to that, I want to dispense with what positive things I have to say first. The acting is all good, the dialogue is generally tolerable, but the movie was like 50 hrs long, filled with insert shots of buttering bread and putting needles on records – cut to TIGHTER shot of the needle on the record! Da daaaaaa! As a romance, The Horses of Madison County may have been more realistic and responsible than others played out by actors closer to myself in age, but man oh man, was this slow and unrewarding. Kristen Scott Thomas, age 31 (she looks 40+ in the movie) and Robert Redford (age 60, looks 410 in the movie) have a surprisingly nice chemistry – if she had shown this much animation in The English Patient, I might not loathe that movie as much as I do. One scene Redford and Thomas had together in a dance hall was almost worth watching the movie for.
The horse (played by 7 horses actually) was a better actor than anyone in the last 5 John Hughes movies. The rancher’s son was more mature than any of my friends (and we all admitted it!), and the teen daughter, played by Scarlett Johansen, was really good too. Seriously, though, the horse trainer, Rex Peterson, is the man. No previews or opening credits?!
Now down to it. The movie is long, languid, and slow. Sure, we get some gorgeous vistas and aerial shots – and that’s only of Redford’s face. There are filters aplenty on him, like a Barbra Streisand movie, and lots of “shoeleather,” shots of nothing, walking, doing, etc, that don’t serve the story or even the mood. Tight shot of hand on saddle pommel. Closeup of buckle being tightened. Cut to hand on fencepost – pan along arm to face, watching action inside corral. New angle of same face. In the audience, there was a blind kid (we only know this from the seeing eye dog who got bored midway through and started to dream) – I can’t imagine what he took away from this movie! Thomas Newman’s score is flat and unemotional and doesn’t even bother to try and capture the grandeur of Big Sky Country – I listened to my Shawshank Redemption score for comparison and the one track where he is sitting in the prison yard staring into space is the exact hum of strings and plink….plink of the piano that is the ENTIRE Horse Whipper score. Sigh.
The most annoying thing about the movie is that there is nothing really wrong with it, but I’ve been rolling my eyes about it for so long I just couldn’t relax into it, like the cowboys relax into Montana. If you like your triumph of the equine spirit combined with a little asexual frustration then this is your movie.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/15/98
Time in minutes 164
Director Robert Redford
Studio Buena Vista Pictures