Robert Duvall is good every time at bat. Open Range, Lonesome Dove, Frank Hackett, Boo Radley, the taxi driver in Bullitt, The Apostle…always right on the mark. When luck and the angels are with him, he’s great. But the marriage of Duvall and Mac Sledge was perfect. I despise country-style Christians for the most part, but I sure related to them here. Tender Mercies is probably the greatest getting-sober-and-turning-your-life-around movie of all time. And yet when it opened in ’83, audiences mostly blew it off. It cost over $4 million to make, and only made $8 million and change.
Wiki excerpt: “The post-screening feedback was, in the words of director Bruce Beresford, ‘absolutely disastrous.’ As a result, Universal executives lost faith in the film and made little effort to promote it. Screenwriter Horton Foote said of the studio, ‘I don’t know that they disliked the film. I just think they thought it was inconsequential. I guess they thought it would just get lost in the shuffle.’ Others in the film industry were equally dismissive; one Paramount Pictures representative described the picture as ‘like watching paint dry‘.”