Friday, 27 August 2010

Flashback: Cold Mountain

I’m working on a review of another Minghella film, and after touching on his The Talented Mr. Ripley for the Movie Meme yesterday I felt like watching Cold Mountain. In retrospect I suppose that Cold Mountain’s chancing of a genuinely warm reception were sunk before it was even released. The golden age of Miramax was at a peak coming off the banner year that was 2002 for them, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger were two cinema’s brightest stars, and Jude Law was no black hole himself. Truthfully, I resent the way that’s Cold Mountain is remembered today because I really do like it. Is it the shameless attempt for Oscar glory that it’s advertised at? Tough question. Perhaps…but that doesn’t really say much.
Cold Mountain is two stories in one. On one side of America Ada Munroe is working on keeping her spirits up as she waits for a man she never really knew to return home. She’s befriended by an intrepid drifter, Ruby Thewes, and together the two start to work on Black Cove farm. On the other side W. P. Inman is making his way back to Ada after having deserted his troops in the Civil War. Cold Mountain is one of those infuriating love stories that have the couple in question apart for the majority of the film. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one seduced by the possibility of Jude and Nicole together, even though they’re more often than not apart. Really, Cold Mountain’s never really a love story. Some other (potentially clichéd) maxim would probably do it more justice – finding your true selves, overcoming odds; etc. 
It’s strange, somewhat, when Cold Mountain came out Nicole Kidman was immediately forgotten in favour or Jude and Renee. Granted, she’d just recently won the Oscar (deservedly) for her work in The Hours but she’d easily have displaced three of the actual nominees that year. Today, Renee Zellweger’s win is regarded as one of the Academy’s largest travesties. I chuckle at that one. I don’t know if that’s the reason that she seems to be so hated now, but it seems silly. I like Cold Mountain, and generally everything about it and I don’t find her performance offensively bad – I don’t find it bad at all. But I’m digressing…there’s no point in turning this into an entry for defensive cinema.
At its heart, it’s a war story in the best of – and worst of – ways. But for a few random moments it never goes to the forefront of battle – and even those aren’t particularly significant, but it shows the effect that war has on a small town, the effect it has on its people, especially those left behind. It’s adapted from a novel, and that makes it that less subtle when it comes to touching on the important issues, but that doesn’t make me any less fond of it. It’s on the nose, but in a good way. There’s a scene where Ruby stands in a bar, “They make the weather and then they stand in the rain and they, ‘Shit! It’s raining!’”. In all its obviousness it’s a perfect summation of war and its effects. It’s a bit of a departure for Minghella in some ways, because Cold Mountain is decidedly more sentimental than anything I’ve seen from him before. I’m willing to admit it spends about thirty minutes settling into itself as it should – but I forgive it those strange moments because even in those odd moments where the story seems to falter it’s only innocuous. The film is still technically proficient. The main trio are good, but Kathy Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brenda Gleeson, Donald Sutherland and Natalie Portman and Jena Malone in brilliant cameos do good work too. No one ever thinks of Cold Mountain in terms of an ensemble cast, but it is. And it has one of the most brilliant scores of the decades, backed by beautiful music from Alison Krauss. Perhaps, general nepotism makes me fond of it but I often think that Cold Mountain’s not given enough credit.
What did you think of Minghella’s final epic?


Fritz said...

I enjoy the movie very much even though it has some parts that are better and some that are not so good (everything with Philipp Seymour Hoffman). I personally love Renée in this and I am glad she got the Oscar.

Nicholas Prigge said...

I like your comment that Nicole Kidman was immediately forgotten (at least for awards). I always felt she was the primary reason this film worked. First, she has to make us WANT Jude to get back to Cold Mountain, and she does, and second, she undergoes the biggest change of any character and is completely convincing in seeing it through.

Heather said...

I admit I'd completely forgotten about this one. And how unfortunate when it includes two of my favorites: Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.

Gotta pick this one up. Wonderful, and lovely review Andrew.

Jess said...

I really like it, and I'll often fast forward all the Jude Law parts and just watch the girls do their thing. They're both really good and Law annoys me. Though his scene with Natalie Portman is great.

Alex Ramon said...

I vividly remember stumbling out on a freezing cold and depressing Boxing Day, 2003, and ending up seeing COLD MOUNTAIN. I was totally entranced by the characters, the performances, the story, the music, and the moods Minghella creates. Have seen it a couple of times since and I think it still holds up well.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fritz i reticently like psh here. sure he's in the weaker portion, but i like seeing how he just turned into THE man in the latter portion of the decade and he WAS good here for me.

nicholas preach it. i love jude here, but it's nicole who makes it all work. that moment where she's building the fence with renee is a nice part of her reconciling the old ada with the new ada. she does make us care to see what will happen with w.p. inman and what not.

heather i want to see them do a real movie together where they're not apart for the majority. but then again, there's the possibility that they're too hot that putting them together will cause a seismic disaster.

jess jude law annoys you. WTF? heresy!!!! but yes, the girls are brilliant together...sooo brilliant together.

alex glad you're with me on that. the music is just sublime and i love minghella.

Jess said...

It's not that Law annoys me, but a lot of his interactions aren't very interesting. Kidman at Zellweger get to interact independently from the Kidman/Law storyline. His is more shallow.

Fitz said...

My parents didn't like this and neither did my girlfriend. I sat through about thirty minutes of the film before I had to go to dinner one night and I enjoyed what I saw of it.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jess his storyline is not as strong, though the moments with portman are brilliantly played. i forgive you.

fitz well, they're definitely not alone. i know people who actively loathe this one, surprised they didn't turn up here.