Take a Drink: for Texas slang
Take a Drink: for ghosts of the past
Take a Drink: for racial tension and/or out-and-out racism
Take a Drink: for panning scene transitions
Do a Shot: when Kristofferson makes your skin crawl
By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
John Sayles is one of those directors who you’ve probably seen a film by (Eight Men Out, The Secret of Roan Inish), but whose name you may not be able to place. Even though he hasn’t received much recognition, for my money he’s one of the finest directors out there, and Lone Star cements that feeling more solidly than Uncle Bill’s truck after his last Tuesday afternoon bender.
Lone Star is about a small town Texas sheriff (Chris Cooper) living in the shadow of his legendary lawman father (Matthew McConaughey) who discovers that he may have murdered a corrupt lawman (Kris Kristofferson). As he unravels this mystery, more threads of the past come undone with it, affecting more people than he could’ve imagined.
The sins of our fathers, the cost of the American Dream, culture clash in the borderlands, crime and punishment… Lone Star’s ingredients may suggest a Cormac McCarthy story, but the meal it assembles, while every bit as quality, has a very different flavor. This is because John Sayles is an optimist at heart. Even in the face of evil, his love and hope for humanity abides.
As does The Dude… as does The Dude.
Lone Star is beautifully and naturally written, so even as every piece of its complicated plot slides into place, it all feels entirely organic to the story and characters. I’ve also seen few films as unfussily multicultural as this, as race is simultaneously a strong theme and a given constant in this world. It’s incredibly refreshing to see when even today Hollywood films often cast only one or two minority characters just to check boxes. The real world is multicultural, and Lone Star lives firmly in the real world.
The cast is uniformly excellent, and I’m not just saying that for effect. Instead of listing them with an adjective or two, I’ll just say that each of the almost 20 principal cast members gets their chance to shine, and they seize it.
Yup, even pre-McConaissance.
Sayles’s achievement is not only in his utterly perfect script, or in his direction of his actors. His film is fetchingly framed and shot, and the way he pans the camera into transitions between past and present is simple, elegant, and eye-catching. The final toast, though, must go to his ending, which brings together all of those story threads into something unconventional and truly beautiful. I won’t spoil it here, but it reinforces the ultimate conclusion of the film: it is best to let the past be the past, and instead to clasp hands and step bravely into the future.
Lone Star is almost more a truly great novel than a film, and now one of my few favorites.