The old teaser for Andrew Dominik‘s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros., 9.21) — the one that’s been out since roughly September 2006 — had, at best, a marginal impact. It gave you a taste of what Casey Affleck‘s Ford might be like — his dorky, vaguely malevolent obsessiveness — and little else. But the new trailer is a huge compositional turn-on. As in, like, whoa….
Finally, the much-touted Andrew Wyeth–Terrence Malick-y element has been let out of the bag. With all the “uh-oh” buzz swirling around this film for so many months, why did Warner Bros. wait so long to serve up the visual majesty?
A friend who saw it the other day calls it “quite beautiful, lyrical, extremely well-acted, and definitely too long.
“It’s basically a film about celebrity and hero worship. Casey Affleck is excellent as the callow Bob Ford, who’s followed the career of Jesse James for years, and wants to be part of his gang. Brad Pitt is also very good as James, a melancholy psychopath with a certain charisma who is prone to murderous rages. It has a lot of voiceover narration lifted directly from Ron Hansen‘s novel, but in this case, it’s beautiful writing that perfectly fits the tone and magnificent visuals.
“But length-wise, it’s just too darn much of a good thing. Dominik could a have shaved five seconds here, ten seconds there off of any number of scenes, and easily gotten this down to a more manageable running time of 125 minutes or so.
“It won’t make a dime. Too languid, and Warner Bros. has no idea what to do with it. They didn’t even have notes at the screening I attended. and there’s less than a month before the release. The question I have to ask is: why didn’t someone put this in a European film festival? It would have killed over there, and gotten some critical support.”