Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Robert Duvall's Wild Horses consists mainly of a series of conversations, some stiff and unconvincing, that never quite coalesce into a plausible story, but it shows periodic signs of life. Those exchanges become magnetic whenever Adriana Barraza is on screen, especially in a climactic scene that she and Duvall build toward a wrenching emotional crescendo. And while the nonprofessional actors intended to add authentic local color sometimes freeze the action in its tracks with wooden line readings, Duvall distills the flavor of rural West Texas in scenes like the gentle taming of an unbroken horse, a midday bonding between brothers at a dark, no-frills bar, and a backyard barbecue at which a band plays "Cielito Lindo" while a bearded cook works a grill made of a halved oilcan.
Barraza's character jump-starts the main plot by asking Texas Ranger Sam Payne (Luciana Duvall) to investigate the disappearance of her son, Jamie, who's been missing for 15 years—ever since homophobic rancher Scott Briggs (Duvall) stumbled upon him making out with Scott's favorite son, Ben (James Franco), in the barn and drove the boys off at gunpoint. The rest of the drama mainly revolves around the Briggs family, including the crumbling marriage one son, KC (Josh Hartnett), is trying to salvage; Ben's temporary return, his first time back home since the catastrophe in the barn; and the surprise Scott springs on his family about Maria Gonzales (Angie Cepeda), a gorgeous young woman who grew up on the ranch and lives there still, running the household for Scott. But all that intrigue, and most of the film's many earnest and expository conversations, feel like tangents. The real theme of Wild Horses is the slide from power of the white patriarchs who used to dominate movies like this, a passing of the torch that Duvall portrays as a much-needed and healthy change. Read the rest in Slant Magazine