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Cold Mountain

Starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger
Based on the novel by Charles Frazier
Written and Directed by Anthony Minghella

IN SHORT: Oscar for Zellweger. [Rated R for Violence and Sexuality. 155 minutes]

Cold Mountain is a fine Civil War-era love story that plays without ever needing to go near a battlefield (once we get past an impressive Siege of Petersburg, which opens the film). The war is, of course, anything but Civil. The woman left behind is Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). Her great love W.P. Inman (Jude Law) achieved that standing with little more than a kiss and some real good looks. That he even got a kiss before the Rebs came conscriptin' was a pretty good deal given the time period. He does get a tintype image to remember Miss Ada by, but that's all.

Ada, as first seen, is the painfully shy daughter of the new Reverend (Donald Sutherland) to the community which has established itself on Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The mountain itself was once owned, and lost, by the Teague family, which is a detail that will become important later down the line. The war wreaks its own havoc on the community. We'll leave out the details save to say it isn't long before Ada has full control of the family property. In a blink and you'll miss it moment, she also sets her slaves free. Net result? One farm and no help, and more important no idea of how, to run it.

Mister Teague (Ray Winstone) is too old to serve in the Confederate Army. Instead, he runs the local "home security" force, hunting down deserters and the like. Of course, keeping the men away means some of the women can't keep up the payments, so to speak, and there's a whole lotta property on the mountain that Teague now has the power to confiscate. Teague also wouldn't mind having Miss Ada in his hands as well, if we follow it all correctly. There's also some sorta mystical nonsense about seeing the future in the reflections in a neighbors well . That probably read beautifully in print but is so much stuff and nonsense in the film, until it is explained toward the end of the story.

A more important fact is that the neighbor sends a laborer called Ruby Thewes (Renee Zellweger) to help out. Ruby takes control of Ada's life as a general would even as the war's duration rumbles into a number of years, instead of the predicted months. By 1864, Inman has had it. Wounded in battle, he deserts from a field hospital (where he's met the father of one of the aforementioned characters -- somehow that's supposed to be a surprise so we won't spill it) and, with great difficulty, works his way back to Ada.

There are a number of little stories that follow, involving Inman and his journey, Ada and Ruby's developing friendship and the ever looming menace of Teague and his cohorts, all of which parade across the screen like -- we hate to say it -- chapters in a book. Give thanks for the creative power of writer/director Anthony Minghella who, at minimum, knows how to work this form and keep everything interesting when it has a better than even chance of collapsing under its own story weight.

We find it amusing that, even as we write this review, we've seen three different television ads for Cold Mountain, each describing it as a different kind of story from the other. That's what comes with a big adaptation of a big book. For us, though, it all comes down on one actor's performance to keep the whole megilla fun to watch. That would be Ms. Zellweger, who gets more to do in a role that can best be summarized as a survivor extraordinaire -- Kidman pines and Law needs to get some before he's hung as a deserter -- and is just brilliant in her performance.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Cold Mountain, he would have paid . . .


There's enough action to keep this epic visually interesting. Kidman may have the big star name to get you to the theater but her role isn't nearly as interesting, or as affecting, as Zellweger's. Spend the bucks for that and lay money down if she's nominated for a statue.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.