Thu 13 Oct 2016
JANE GOT A GUN. 1821 Pictures / The Weinstein Company, 2016. Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich. Director: Gavin O’Connor.
Some people blame the lack of success of this recent western movie epic — its first weekend’s gross was a paltry $865,572 with a per theater average of $691 — on the problems in production: too many last minute changes in the cast and crew, including the director. Others have suggested that modern day audiences aren’t able to handle sophisticated story-telling devices, such as the extended use of flashbacks in revealing the history of the characters gradually and only in bits and pieces.
Or maybe westerns have fallen out of favor with movie-going audiences in general, with only a few exceptions making any noise at the box office. Lots of reasons, in other words, but personally, I enjoyed this one.
Which tells the life story of Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman), whose husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) comes home to their New Mexico ranch one afternoon badly wounded and telling Jane that the Bishop gang is coming. Leaving their young daughter with a neighboring family, Jane goes to Dan Frost, another neighbor (Joel Edgerton), for help. He refuses, but it is clear that there is a history between the two.
And what that history is is where the flashbacks come in, and the whole purpose of the movie — to tell us one of hundreds of similar stories of the real Old West, a time and place that was often brutal and uncaring. This is not as much a story of a woman’s quest for revenge (as the title might suggest) as it is one of a woman making some tough choices in life and then having to live with them as life goes on.
The photography is often strikingly beautiful, and that of course includes Natalie Portman, who stands out and steals every scene she is in. Of course we the viewer also realize that she is more beautiful than any other women in the real Old West ever was, but instinctively we also place such thoughts into a category called the magic of movie-making.
The movie is rated R for the occasional horrific scenes of violence, making the (Spoiler Alert) the happy ending a bit too saccharine and therefore out of place in comparison, but once again, speaking personally, I didn’t mind at all.