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on June 1, 2004
Continuing his exploration of what makes a man good, bad -- just plain human-- is what this film delves into, even more deeply than in the stunning "Unforgiven" (to his credit, Eastwood never pretends, as some male writers and directors do, that he understands women; instead, he admits that we are mysteries to him, and concentrates his energies on what he does understand: American men). Refusing to subscribe to typical American cinematic over-simplifications of "good vs. evil," Clint Eastwood delivers films that make you realize very quickly that there is no room for such absolutes when dealing with human truths. This thesis, which he has been pursuing for some time now, perhaps starting with "Tightrope" where the line between good and evil blurs to invisibility, he has, with "A Perfect World," given us a translation of John Lee Hancock's brilliant screenplay that is both beautiful and almost too painful to bear. Noted by critics at the time of its relase, but completley ignored by audiences who, it seems, found Kevin Costner as an escaped convict just too unpalatable, this film takes us on a complex journey deep into the souls of two tortured men, Costner's "Butch Haynes" and Eastwood's "Red," the Texas Ranger who is charged with running the escaped Haynes down. The past and its consequences are a continual theme in all of Eastwood's important works, and in this film, the ironies are neck-deep and take time and patience from the viewer to unravel. Even the decision by Red to commandeer the vehicle the Governer intends to ride in the next day when President Kennedy will be in Dallas (this is 1963) brings up the question: would the Governer have been shot had he been in this vehicle instead of in the President's car? This is one subtle example of how decision and consequence are continously explored in this most thought-provoking of films.
Kevin Costner gave probably the best performance of his life, cast against type as a complex man who cannot be called either bad or good, merely profoundly human, whose life has followed a course laid by poverty, homelessness, a suicide mother and a felonious father, a bit of high spirits, and high intelligence with nowhere to go, but most importantly, the Texas penal system as it was managed in the 60's. Haynes' moral center, despite his acts, never wavers, and it is that moral center that propels events which finally spiral out of his control and into tragedy. But we see, clearly, that even a so-called "bad" man can be good enough to inspire genuine, deep love that, in the end, redeems both him and the person whose initial action started the long chain of events that ends with the 36 hours over which this film takes place (we discover who this is along the way, and I don't want to lessen the impact of any discoveries). Another reviewer here implied that it was Eastwood who is responsible for Costner's excellence in this film, but having seen so many interviews with his actors, it is generally understood that Eastwood casts his actors, then leaves them alone to find the character and reveal him without a great deal of interference, so it would seem that the credit is, indeed, Costner's. Sadly, he never again worked against type, perhaps because of this film's commercial failure, but this performance will always stand as testament to what he can do, and never is that performance better than in the house where Cajun music on the Victrola and senseless violence against a boy much of an age as Butch himself was when violence entered his life, combine to send him into a sort of fugue state of memory, pain, longing, rage, and ultimately, the loss of control that brings things to a terrible end.
The boy, Philip, with whom he bonds (played beautifully by the transparent T.J. Lowther) also gives us his heart laid bare, and the rapport between the two of them is completely believable. We understand the child's repeated choices to stay with Butch, and the reasons go far beyond the superficial need for a father (his is gone), and into the realm of love. It is from Haynes that he learns the lesson that exacts the price of Haynes' escape, but then it is his love for Haynes that makes it bearable, and even right, for both of them, as in the end, he becomes the protector--the man--whose job it is to help a loved-one who can no longer help himself.
When a film's characters are torn apart by the end of a film, its viewers should be, too, and we definitely are. It is a difficult, heart-breaking journey that Clint Eastwood insists we take with him, but taking it brings us to the point where we should start each day: from scratch. Red's last line is, "I don't know a da*n thing anymore," and that is exactly the point and the purpose of this story. We should never, ever think we have all the answers; to do so is fatal, as Red learns. Every day we should be willing to examine our beliefs and look back, with honesty, at what we've done, and look forward to what we're about to do with eyes wide open and with some sort of awareness of potential damage, and know, always, that there is no good "us," no bad "them," but that we're all only human beings, deeply flawed and yet filled with the capacity for love and connection, each of us doing the best we can.
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on November 24, 2003
This film is one of those rare movies that manage to use the strengths of all involved. First, this is the very best of Clint Eastwood both as a director and actor. Eastwood the director learned his trade from Don Siegel, who made a bunch of no-nonsense 70's action films, many of them with Eastwood as the star. Eastwood learned his trade well from the master. He can edit the fat out of a film very effectively. Eastwood the actor really shines in this film as well in a supporting role as a Texas Ranger at the tail end of a career doing a kind of slow burn as events unfold around him.
This film is also Kevin Costner's best work ever, and one has to imagine it came because Director Eastwood sat on him hard. Whatever, Costner gives a very, very good performance, full of depth as a prisoner on the lam. He is actually tough and touching at the same time, no small feat for any actor.
Finally, Laura Dern is also at her best in this film. What happened to her, anyway? Where did she go? Anyway, the romance between the Eastwood character and Dern is understated and very moving, as each character slowly gain respect for the other. Dern is not classically beautiful, but she comes off as very real and smart, with a sense of humor and a real humanity. Hollywood needs more like her, instead of fashion models playing cops. Dern looks natural as hell in the role with a beauty, as corny as it sounds, that comes from within.
All in all, a vastly overlooked gem that is well worth owning.
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on October 17, 2003
This is a relatively slow paced (but well-intentioned) movie that is very deftly directed by Clint Eastwood. The film demonstrates Eastwood's typical minimalistic approach to directing, and relies on character development and exploration moreso than it does story. This bare bones approach by Eastwood works like a charm, to bring to film a whimsical tale.
Costner pulls off probably his most laudable and competent role in any of his movies, transcending even Dances with Wolves. His effort is very understated, controlled and ultimately utterly convincing in his delivery. This role from Costner is equally and ably supported by T J Lowther as the young boy Philip. The performances of these two actors ultimately make this such a winning film. They are ably supported by Clint Eastwood and Laura Dern.
What really drives this film is the relationship that develops between Butch and Philip. Philip gets his much needed father figure and Haynes gets an opportunity to play a more fatherly role to Philip than the father who neglected him. By three quarters of the way through the movie the viewer is hoping that Haynes and Philip can escape the manhunt and start new lives together - which in a perfect world probably would have happened!
Without disclosing the ending, what ultimately happens in the movie is a true testament to the depths reached and expressed between man and boy. In a very unmelodramatic fashion a heart-wrenching ending is reached.
By the end this a whimsical story of might have beens, and possibilities. The understated manner in which all aspects of the movie are approached make it all the more poignant and fulfilling. Anyone who likes a good solid drama should appreciate this film!
P.S. A number a criticisms directed at the portrayal of Jehova Witnesses is unfortunate. The movie is clearly not intending to pass any judgement on such beliefs. In any religion the level of piety is very much a personal thing. The story could have portrayed Philip's mother as belonging to any number of churches and still have her depicted as sheltering her children!
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on June 18, 2001
Deputy, "In a perfect world, ma'am, we could surround the area and he would come out with his hands up."
Laura Dern, "In a perfect world, people like him wouldn't exist at all."
These are two lines from the film a perfect world, one of the best movies ever made. After I watched it the first time I sat nearly to tears through the credits, with my mouth agape. I know movies like that don't seem to be the greatest, but this one works. I love good movies. The kind that make absolute sense and leave a mark on your heart. The ending is so shocking, and unexpected that it totally caught me off guard. That is a big complement, because nowadays you can pretty much guess the way a movie is going. Butch (Kostner) escapes from prison with an absolute piece of slime for a partner. They try to steal a car and get some food from a resident, but instead end up with a hostage named phillip, a young boy without a father that has been sheltered his entire life from anything exciting. After a series of events the slime bucket partner is out of the picture (a scene that stands on its own as just plain deserved), and soon it is just Butch and Phillip. The boy tugs on butch's heart and becomes Phillip's father figure. Eastwood is the sherrif responsible for bringing in Butch. The story between them run's far back into the years, and Eastwood blames himself for Butch's life. Laura Dern, excellent in whatever she does, stays beside the reluctant Eastwood in the pursuit. She is in a time where woman are just breaking through into the work force, let alone making an influence. She is sharp as a tack, and knows the tragic history behind Butch. I try to find an answer in every film I watch and review. The question is, "in a perfect world, would people like butch exhist?" And in reply I say, most definately, but the tragedy that creates men with hatred, would be nowhere in sight. This is the second greatest movie of all time (next to awakenings). I hope you will experience it.
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on April 28, 2001
Kevin Costner gives (for me) his most compelling role to date as Butch Haines escaped convict. Butch, despite some other reviews, is neither good nor bad but he is (definitely) essentially good at heart.
You have to wonder about the type of person Butch would have been given different circumstances. That's not to excuse his crimes because I definitely believe that adults are responsible for their actions regardless of the upbringing that they had. Nonetheless, Butch is definitely a thoughtful and caring individual. He admires family men and abhors violence against children. Self motivated above all else but still caring. He's done what he had to for freedom. But is it fair that he suffered so much as a youth while perhaps Red (Clint Eastwood) is ultimately the most responsible for turning him into the harderned criminal that he is? That's the essential question. What's right, who's responsible, and who's to blame.
Clint is great (as always) as the grizzled hard nosed Texas Ranger assigned to hunt Haines down. But it is his direction that has to really be admired. Subtle yet powerful. The story is what drives the greatness of the film though. Good guys who aren't so good and bad guys who aren't so bad and the different ugly sides of many of the players. Why is it that Haines' escape partner is such a scumbag while Haines is intelligent and compassionate (at times). Why is a conservative law man like Red sympathetic towards Butch while the FBI man is so callous? How can a sweet little kid both admire Butch and have the guts to stop an atrocity at the same time?
Intelligent, funny, and dramatic A Perfect World has it all. A fabulous film.
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on March 4, 2001
A Perfect World has been one of those curious movies relegated to the back bins of the video stores.Unlike its american cousins{the over the-top action genre} this movie is quiet, almost introspective{as introspective as cinema can be}. Costner plays an escaped excon{with a young boy in tow} Eastwood a grizzled Texas ranger.Nothing is as it seems. The boy is escaping from a abusive home, Eastwood is a man growing apart from the changing world. Costner's noble fallen angel is the best performance that he has ever given. Compared to his wooden WYATT EARP or his empty JFK,this is an exceptional leap,textured,nuanced. Perhaps it is Eastwoods direction. Laura Dern as a criminologist is [as always]excellent,thoughtthis movie belongs to the two leads. There is little"action" per se,, {the ending of the movie is apparent in the opening scene}though the dialogue is excellent and understated,as is the entire film. Next to UNFORGIVEN,this is the best film Easwood has done,and certainly, the most interesting.
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on January 29, 2001
this film kicked me in the gut. I don't understand how it has been so seemingly overlooked: Costner should have have been nominated for an academy award for his portrayal of Butch Haynes, a man with some good at heart but constantly teetering on the edge of violence. he isn't aware of his predelictions-- he isn't trying to be good, quite the opposite. but he seems to do good in spite of himself. you must pity him as someone trapped in their own violent past, trying to rewrite it by befriending his young hostage, and still trying to move hopelessly towards an unattainable future.
the final scenes of this film are inevitable, and almost too painful to watch.
Eastwood's direction, especially that of the boy and Costner, is tremendous. also, the flat-eyed, totally irredeemable character of the FBI sharp-shooter makes for a good contrast with Butch: both kill an equal number of people in the film: one. yet which killing is the more justified?
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on January 10, 2003
This is one of my favourites of all time.
i dont realy know why but i like it.
it is about a man(costner) who with another inmate escape from jail. In the process of escaping butch (costner) kidnaps a small boy as a hostage sort of thing. as they travel accross the states, being chased by sheriff Clint Eastwood butch and boy form a bond.
As the movie turns into a buddy movie we never loose sight of the fact that Butch is a criminal and being tracked down but we dont seem to care. the boy is in need of a father figure and we want to see more of their relationship.
We never see much of a bad side of costners character and yet we are aware that he has his priorities straight. With a nice little twist at the end you cant help but wonder after the film
"what if?"
make this one of your favourites.
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on September 27, 2000
Kevin Costner turned up in his best role in years in this excellent drama of an escaped convict, serving time for a series of armed robberies who kidnaps a young boy and holds him hostage. Along the way the boy soon befriends Costner. This film remains tense and gripping throughout, holding many moments of suspense, The acting is great from a cast that also includes Clint Eastwood who also directed this movie. Its great to seee such two great actors together and its a pity they dont share any of their scenes together. There are some moments of comedy too giving this the balance it needs to be a good film. Very good scripts throughout the film and the ending is surprisingly quite moving. Highly recommended!
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on August 2, 2002
It isn't fair that such good movies this one don't get the recognition they deserve. A Perfect World??? No, no, no. A Perfect Movie. Kevin Costner is superb, Oscar worthy. Clint is fabulous, Oscar worthy himself as Supporting Actor and Director. It's a classic bandit robbing spree kidnap story, but Kevin just breathes such life and energy into Butch... "Are you bad Butch?" "Oh yeah." You just love him by the end of the movie that you want him to succeed and get away. Stellar film and as good as an underrated film can get.
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