Two gorgeous actors with zero on-screen chemistry, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman
star in this year's big Christmas release, COLD MOUNTAIN. Based on a Charles
Frazier novel, it is written and directed by Anthony Minghella, who garnered a
writing nomination and a directing Oscar for THE ENGLISH PATIENT, which is
surprising given how inert this latest picture is.
This Civil War romance and anti-war drama is a snoozer that is long, literary
and lifeless. Inman (Law) says that he is "like every fool sent out to fight
with a flag and a lie." After meeting Ada (Kidman) very briefly in the
beginning, he deserts from the Confederate army and spends most of the rest of
the movie trying to get back to her. Meanwhile back home, Ada and her comedic
sidekick, Ruby Thewes (Ren‚e Zellweger), are busy fixing up Ada's old farm.
When the lovers finally are reunited in the last part of the last act, their
meeting is too convenience and not realistically acted. Despite all of the
Oscar buzz about their acting in COLD MOUNTAIN, Law and Kidman are so stoic
that they might as well have sent in their headshots rather that wasting their
time showing up on the set.
The film's few battles are so confusing that it's never clear who is fighting
whom, but Minghella does create a couple of impressive sequences. Looking like
a rugby game in the mud, the opening fight is a blur of blood and bodies.
Mostly, however, the movie is one long road trip, as Inman meets various
strangers on his long journey home. The women he comes upon, including a lonely
widow named Sara (Natalie Portman), want to offer him more than just
companionship, but he stays faithful to Ada, a woman with whom he has shared at
most a few dozen words of conversation. The strangest of Inman's encounters,
which plays like a bizarre DELIVERANCE outtake, occurs when a mountain man
(Giovanni Ribisi) and his sexually needy family offer Inman and his new
traveling companion (Philip Seymour Hoffman) some erotic but dangerous
Mainly the movie tries so hard to be literary that it doesn't take enough time
to be compelling or convincing. With its frequent use of voice-over for the key
points, the movie-going experience feels more like listening to a long book on
tape than watching a motion picture.
The film is consistently beautiful, and the production values are uniformly
high. Moving as slow as molasses in winter, the movie offers little more that
candy for our eyes. Trying to stay awake during its long 156 minutes is a real
trial. About the best that can be said of COLD MOUNTAIN is that it ends
completely predictably but quite well.
COLD MOUNTAIN runs 2:36. The film is rated R for "violence and sexuality" and
would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes