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  • Far and Away
    • Far and Away
    • Runtime:127 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-22 23:26:51
    • Director: Ron Howard
    • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Romance, Western
    • Studio:


This is one of those epic colossal movies that had potential that
wasn't fulfilled.

The film begins in late 19th century Ireland with a conflict between
the impoverished Catholics and the ruling Protestants. The film's young
protagonists, Joseph Donnelly (Tom Cruise) and Shannon Christie (Nicole
Kidman) have their first confrontation there. (Cruise and Kidman were
married when the film was made.) Shannon is a spoiled daughter of the
family that owns the land that tenant farmers (such as the Donnellys)
worked. She is unhappy living in her parent's home and wants to go to
America and get free land she saw advertised in a flyer. (The Oklahoma
Territory was scheduled to be opened to homesteading.) She gets
Donnelly to come with her as her valet, so the setting switches to a
ship. It then moves to the seedy sides of New York City where the two
have a hard life. Next the scene is building the transcontinental
railroad. Finally it gets to the land rush.

The problem is that the audience is asked to accept improbable events
in each of these settings. For example, in Ireland we are to believe
that a gentleman would defend his honor by challenging a manual laborer
to a duel. In New York City the bare knuckle fight scenes between
heavyweights and the flyweight Donnelly are too poorly choreographed to
be believable. In the New York to Oklahoma transit section Joseph has
no problem joining a wagon train without any supplies or
transportation. Again, Joseph takes no supplies with him on his
horseback race for the Oklahoma land and has no one to bring him
supplies needed for homesteading (as a minimum he would need a shovel
and food.) Tom Cruise on horseback looked foolish moving the reins up
and down as if he was operating a pump. Cruise's Irish accent was bad
and inconsistent. So was the quality of the acting.


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Kitsch is the absolute denial of sh-t." – Milan Kundera

"Far and Away" was dismissed when it was initially released. The
problem audiences and critics had at the time was recognising the film
as a comedy, mistaking its lush visuals and epic story for some kind of
self-important David Lean imitation.

These perceptions are largely the fault of Steven Spielberg. Spielberg
invented a kind of kitschy David Lean style with "The Colour Purple"
and "Empire of the Sun", which infected a bevy of Hollywood films in
the late 80s and early 90s (just watch Oliver Stone's "Heaven and
Earth"). When Ron Howard – whose career oscillates between solid
thrillers and hack art – released "Far and Away", everyone viewed it
through the prism of some kitschy Spielbergian epic, John Williams
score and all. In short: the film looked and felt like an idiotic
movie, yet was marketed as a serious, beautifully shot and hugely
expensive epic. How could anyone take it seriously?

Viewed decades later, though, and its clear that the film relishes its
own stupidity. With the benefit of hindsight, and with audiences now
familiar with mega-stars Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder, Magnolia) and
Nicole Kidman (Australia) as comedians, we can now recognise "Far and
Away" as the funny and unpretentious version of "Titanic", "Australia"
and "Gangs of New York".

And so this zippy film darts back and forth, indulging in all kinds of
caricatures (Irish as drunks, boxers, red heads etc), clichés and
shenanigans, but embracing them wholeheartedly and never taking itself
too seriously. How can it, when it features Tom Cruise riding a donkey?

7.5/10 – Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a funny odd couple, both
lending charisma and humour to a familiar tale (The film also stars
Thomas Gibson. Cruise, Gibson and Kidman would be similarly cast in
Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"). The film fails when it tries to be serious
and dramatic but its pace, comedy and style more than make up for this,
Ron Howard's elaborate sets, costumes and carnivals of colourful
citizens complementing Cruise's Celtic character and conjuring up the
cavalcades of con-men, crooks and charlatans common in the countless
chronicles of Charles Dickens. Capiche?

Worth one viewing.

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