Coming to theaters this weekend is an old school movie called Let Him Go, starring Kevin Costner and Diana Lane. Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha, this film adapts the book by the same name and written by Larry Watson. The synopsis for the movie is as follows:
Set in 1963 following the tragic loss of their son, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife Margaret (Lane) leave their Montana ranch to rescue their young grandson from the clutches of a dangerous family in the Dakotas, headed by matriarch Blanche Weboy. When they discover the Weboys have no intention of letting the child go, George and Margaret are left with no choice but to fight for their family.Official Synopsis
Starring two legendary names like Costner and Lane sets any film off in the right direction, but adapting books can be difficult. Those that read the book first might interpret things differently than the big screen, and sometimes ideas are simply better in print than in theaters. Does Larry Watson pull the story off or does it fall flat?
Let Him Go – A Vision From a Previous Era
When Bezucha decided to make this movie, he spoke of how he enjoyed both the slow-burn pace of the story as well as the cross-genre feel. The story mixes western with thriller and family. While the goal is for the Blackledge family to retrieve the grandson from an abusive father, it also spends a great deal of time with the relationship between George and Margaret. The question becomes does it spend too much time?
There are two genres that are pretty much dead in today’s world – romance and westerns. It does not matter how good the film is, moviegoers will not go to them. In an attempt to reinvigorate the slower, more methodical films of the past, Bezucha in many ways makes his own film unwatchable. The pace is indeed slow, but in trying to mimic the book he creates a product that turns into a long, drawn out film of nothing.
The movie does no preparation on the family. In a few abrupt scenes we learn its the late 50’s and a young couple with a new born child live with the husband’s parents. Cut scene. The husband dies. Cut scene. Daughter-in-law remarries. Cut Scene. Margaret witnesses abuse. Cut scene. Daughter-in-law, new husband and grandchild are gone. The editing is that abrupt and never delves into or develops the characters. Viewers can sense a great unease between Lorna and her in-laws, but Bezucha never explains or shows why.
Even the abuse scene is Margaret parked at a stop sign. Kid drops ice cream cone. Husband slaps both kid and mom. Then with the sudden disappearance, Margaret instantly decides she will kidnap the kid from his parents with or without George.
Let Him Go – All the Time in the World
From there George and Margaret head off to kidnap their grandkid, but they do not even meet the Weboy family until an hour into the movie. Of course wanting that western feel much of this time is used to do nothing more than show sweeping shots of the magnificent scenery on Montana and North Dakota, but the story goes nowhere.
The story introduces a young loner Native American boy in his late teens played by Booboo Stewart. Booboo does a fine job, but the role serves no purpose other than to introduce another tragic character. Peter’s sole purpose seems to be to serve as a plot device to help Margaret.
Let Him Go – The Weboys
Finally after 45 minutes, we meet our first Weboy, Bill played by Jeffrey Donovan. At this point the movie does shift genres, but it shifts to a cross between The Godfather and a Rob Zombie horror film. Bill becomes enthralled with Margaret and he is the sane one of the family. While we know just Bill, it feels as if he spearheads the Weboy clan, but once they reach the Amityville house in the middle of nowhere we see how wrong we were.
The Weboy clan not only acts like a typical inbred, southern horror-film type clan, but it’s also a matriarchy. The evil and disgust radiating from Blanche, played by Lesley Manville quickly overpowers everyone else. The pace of the film finally resumes a more normal film’s pace, but I kept waiting for Leatherface to pop out. The entire cast playing the Weboys does an excellent job making them creepy as hell.
Let Him Go – The Rest of the Film
The rest of the film becomes more evenly paced, but there are some scenes and flashbacks that feel very out of place and continue the disjointed feel of the movie. There is a tense intermission between Weboy dealing and what do we get? A Costner/Lane love scene. Way to stay focused. I also took issue with George being an ex-Sherriff. If he were and he had dealings with a family like the Weboys, you cannot tell me his every instinct would not be to have his revolver ON HIM at all times, not buried in his suitcase.
Diane Lane’s character also came across very unstable. As obsessed as Blanche was to keep her family under thumb, was Margaret any different? While the cause may be just, she spends the entire film attempting to kidnap her grandkid. Her obsession rivals Blanche’s in many ways. In the end I had as much disgust for Margaret as I did for Blanche.
All of the actors, especially Manville, do a great job portraying the Weboys as an inbred, mobster like family. You wanna hate the actors for their performances, but then you realize their performances that make you hate them is doing exactly what they are supposed to do. Great comparisons would be Jack Gleeson (Joffrey from Game of Thrones) or any nearly any Tim Roth role.
Let Him Go – Final Thoughts
I do not fault the acting in this film. They all do a great job with what they are given, but in the end the directing, writing and editing of this film knocks it from where it could have been. The scenes for the most part are to succinct and oddly thrown together. The lack of dialogue in a movie like this also makes it hard to connect with any of the characters. The overall film simply comes across as too disjointed. The cobbled scenes tell what needs to be told and then moves on instead of creating scenes that develop the characters and allow viewers to attach themselves. The identity crisis across genres doesn’t help either. Its too slow to be a thriller, but is it a western? horror? character based?
In the end modern audiences will have a hard time with this movie, but I see older movie goers identifying a bit more.