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IN SHORT: Fine Film Festival Fare. [Rated PG for Some Mild Violent Content, Brief Language and Smoking. 104 minutes]
We apologize for the alliteration. Cranky's just a wee bit punch drunk from watching too many films this week, most of 'em not nearly as well constructed as Meek's Cutoff. That's a back-of-the-hand compliment. The acting in Meek's Cutoff, whose story is about a wagon train comprised of nine people in three covered wagons, six oxen, four horses a mule riding the Oregon Trail in 1845, is absolutely first rate.
Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is the title character, whose wagon train apparently made a wrong turn somewhere along the Trail and now has to find water and a way back through the mountains and towards civilization. They first need to find a source of fresh water and then to deal with the Indian (Rod Rondeaux) that, apparently, has been trailing the train. The men of the train, Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton) and Thomas Gately (Paul Dano), will capture said Indian. While some want him dead, the decision is made to let the native go free if he will lead the train to water.
Of course, there's a language barrier . . .
The problem with Meek's Cutoff is that the film is all character development and virtually no active plot. Sure, there are enough obstacles in the basic task of trying to move a caravan of three wagons, six oxen, (four) horses a mule and nine people along the Oregon Trail in 1845 but it's just not enough to be interesting.
And pardon me for being male BUT, as the film is promoted as star vehicle for Michelle Williams; her particular subplot doesn't dominate all the others, which means that either the director has screwed up in the edit room or the writer just didn't give enough oomph to the character,
Sorry, no "if" about it. Williams' character, Emily Tetherow, does stand up to the men and the inherent racism of the time as the film reaches its end but, overall it's too little too late.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Meek's Cutoff, he would have paid . . .
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