A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
As the film opens on an Oklahoma farm during the depression, two simultaneous visitors literally hit the Wagoneer home: a ruinous dust storm and a convertible crazily driven by Red, the missus' brother. A roguish country-western musician, he has just been invited to audition for the Grand Ole Opry, his chance of a lifetime to become a success. However, this is way back in Nashville, Red clearly drives terribly, and he's broke and sick with tuberculosis to boot. Whit, 14, seeing his own chance of a lifetime to avoid "growing up to be a cotton picker all my life," begs Ma to let him go with Uncle Red as driver and protege. Thus begins a picaresque journey both hilarious and poignant.Written by
Paul Emmons <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The critics didn't like this film, but I beg to differ. Perhaps I'm naive and gullible, but to me it rings true in its local color and the coping of poor people in the Depression amidst the aspirations of young and old alike.
My father, a published author in a small way, once mused to me that if he were to write a novel, it would be about someone trying to come to terms with his own mediocrity. Such is the theme of this movie, and hardly typical a consideration it is in a time when the media bombard us coast to coast, for our adulation, with the glamorous images of a mere handful of individuals who happen to have landed vast fame and fortune. What does any of this have to do with most of us? On the one hand, we live day to day. On the other, a recurring dream whispers "maybe..."
Knowing that he is living on borrowed time, Red, humble and hand-to-mouth but respected more than he knows by a few somewhat more successful colleagues (and an unusually fallible and vulnerable character for Eastwood, which he plays well) is granted, in extremis, an apparent opportunity to reach for the stars. More down-to-earth, he is also fortuitously blessed/burdened with not just one but two young proteges: first his nephew, then also a girl at loose ends. Perhaps neither is particularly talented; nevertheless both have a claim on his attention which he reluctantly fulfills in his own unassuming way, while making no exalted pretenses as to their prospects. When on his deathbed he can do no more for them, he commends them to each other. "You take care of her, now" he rasps to Whit. "She's okay. Help her with her singing." While they may never reach celebrity, the texture of life can sustain them if they face it together.
As, dying and perhaps delirious, he gazes up into Marlene's face, he sees the "raw-boned Okie woman" he had loved for several years as a mistress, and whom he later had regretted leaving. She had borne a girl whom he had never met. Marlene was a fatherless waif of about the right age. Did he recognize at the last moment his long-lost daughter? It is a question which the film leaves hanging in the air. Does genealogy matter? In practical terms, that is what she became almost too late.
For my money, it's a raw-boned, American Okie "La Boheme."
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