what about Bob?
by Lovell Mahan-Moutaw
A Couch with a View
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
is a mishmash of good, bad and brilliant, a great example of talented
people willing to take chances. The story is based on fact: Butch Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid were real train robbers who went out in a blaze
of glory facing the Bolivian cavalry. (Or did they? Butch's sister claimed
that he came back home and lived under an assumed name until a ripe
old age.) According to anyone and everyone, Butch was an affable fellow,
a man on the wrong side of the law who got along with everyone. The
Sundance Kid was yin to Butch's yang (or yang to Butch's yin or whatever).
A thug, mean to the bone, unstable, violent, and a drunk who had no
friends, save Butch.
Paul Newman plays Butch, making him both likable and comedic.
Robert Redford plays Sundance, making him less of a thug and more of
a good-lookin' quick draw artist who doesn't have a lot of patience
with social pleasantries. The movie has its good points: Newman and
Redford - both good, sometimes great, but never bad (well, Redford deliveres
a few lines woodenly).
movie also has its bad points: A Burt Bacharach score that was specifically
made to sound contemporary, and to go with some of the contemporary
feel of the movie and dialogue, even though it's supposed to be a period
piece. It sounds dated now, but they took a chance with it, and there
are times when it works - there are also times when it is sadly laughable.
There is a chase scene that is overlong. WAY overlong. The first "musical
interlude" is corny.
second and third "musical interludes" are well done. The New York City
sequence is wonderful. Edith Head's costumes are fantastic. The shootout
in the Bolivian marketplace is great, and the final Butch and Sundance
conversation is well-written, well-acted, hopeful, horrible, funny,
sad, delightful and tragic. The end is inspired.
The video includes a 45-minute documentary on the making
of the film, narrated by Hill with commentary by Newman, Redford, and
screenwriter William Goldman. It seems Hill didn't get along with any
of his actors (particularly Katharine Ross). The New York stills were
shot on the set created for Hello Dolly. The massacre (where
they killed the banditos) was filmed twice. Hill's first version seemed
too balletic (they showed this version and it was very graceful).
In the end, Hill went with the slo-mo dying style. The
final shot (the still of Butch and Sundance turning sepia) was done
after flying in an FX wiz from the studio. One of the stunt men who
was "shot" during the final shootout was Newman's double, and he broke
his pelvis when he fell from the building.
Outside of being a little bored during the chase sequence,
I loved this movie. It was interesting to watch on a variety of levels
- the story, the "backstory," and the great chemistry between
Newman and Redford.
Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973). Redford and Newman team up again
with Hill for this Academy Award winning, movie-long lesson on how to
run a con. Although Hill doesn't seem to have the same artistic chops
that made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid such a delight,
Redford and Newman (with a fine supporting cast of character actors
including Ray Walston, Harold Gould, Eileen Brennan and Charles Durning)
save this movie and make it a winner. A damn good script (David S. Ward)
doesn't hurt either.
play a veteran con man who takes Redford under his wing. Together they
stage an elaborate "sting" on a mean, crooked banker played
by Robert Shaw. If you can manage to avoid obsessing on the obvious
sets and studio backlots, and the sometimes ill-advised camera maneuvers,
and pay attention to the acting and writing, then you won't be disappointed.
It's interesting and smart. I'll give Hill credit for the period-specific
stills and adapting Scott Joplin's rag for the movie - perfect touches.
Bob, though, I have to say, is not so good sometimes.
He can (as he did in The Great Gatsby and Butch Cassidy)
seem a bit wooden. I have to say that Robert Shaw is (not counting the
accent, which seemed to slip at times) very, very good. A fun film,
with a nice sucker punch at the end.
The Way We Were (Sydney Pollack, 1973).
I would call this The Way I Wish We Weren't And Never Would Be.
It's about a Jewish left-wing student (Barbra Streisand) who has an
unlikely romance with an apolitical Gentile jock dreamboat (Robert Redford).
Although Barbra is luminous and Bob is unbelievably, otherworldly
handsome and both (yes, even Bob, through and through) give powerful
performances, this story seems, well, no, it is real...and sometimes
it's really hard to watch. If I were Hubbell (Redford), I would
have cut Katie (Streisand) loose way before he did and never gone back
then, the point of this movie is how real the relationship seems. For
example, we do stupid things when we love someone - like, say, stay
with them way longer than we ever should. Katie's call to Hubbell
after he dumps her is agonizing to watch. I've made those calls before
and made those promises (both verbally and in my head). "I'll change
and be whatever you want me to be." But you can't change, you always
must and will be yourself, and thus will never be what the other person
wants - and why do you want someone who does not want you and
all the little and big parts of you? Big question, sad answer.
And the fight they have on the street - how many times do you find yourself
in an embarrassing exchange in front of others? The movie was good,
but hard to watch, a painful, real romance - as real as it gets, in
my opinion, when the romance isn't right. The moments of exhuberance
and love and lightheartedness fading to despair, and ultimately that
numbing despondency when you know it is the end.
©2002 Lovell Mahan-Moutaw