Wednesday, January 1, 2020


Kelly Reichardt has made one of the better buddy crime dramedies in recent years (the film hasn’t really been marketed as such but I assure you that First Cow is absolutely a partners-in-crime story that’s also about class, chance encounters and the importance of friendship). Anyone familiar with me, my taste & this blog should know that I am pretty biased towards Reichardt's filmography. So in order to show that my enjoyment of this movie was genuine, let me start this review by saying that – in my personal opinion – First Cow takes a while to get to something. 30 minutes to be exact (I'm pointing out some of the mildly negative qualities to show I'm not completely  biased). Normally I don’t mind movies taking their time (especially in the case of Kelly Reichardt). But unlike Old Joy, Certain Women, Wendy & Lucy and the rest of her work, I found myself drifting off and losing my patience in the beginning of First Cow. But the thing is - we need those first 30 minutes in order to establish some important seeds that grow and show up later in the movie.
I was also a little pessimistic because Reichardt's latest kind of travels down the same lane as Meek’s Cuttoff which is my least favorite Reichardt film (I know I’m in the minority on that one because most folks seem to think that's her best film).
Once the movie picks up speed it becomes an excellent story that mixes comedy, drama and elements concerning the "haves" versus the "have-nots" (First Cow fits right alongside recent films like Parasite & Slack Bay). The story concerns two former gold prospectors ("Cookie" & "King") who come up with a somewhat risky hustle to make some quick cash. Like most stories concerning criminals – things go great at first but after they get too comfortable with their minor criminal exploits, they get sloppy and things eventually fall apart...

Kelly Reichardt (a woman) understands men to a certain degree in a way some other filmmakers don't. I know that may sound like a basic compliment/requirement but some filmmakers don’t really get the opposite sex they're exploring. It goes without saying – and there are tons of examples – but quite a few male filmmakers don’t understand women (history has shown us this). And it works both ways. Not all women understand men. Any rational person would/should agree with that. While we are equal at the end of the day, men and women are still different. Especially when it comes to same same-sex friendships. I find it fascinating how well Kelly Reichardt gets & understands male friendships (this is her second mostly all-male film after Old Joy which shares some of the same basic skeletal similarities as it pertains to male bonding & male closeness). Kelly Reichardt’s female-driven exploration of male bonding is kind of reminiscent of Claire Denis’s male driven work like Beau Travail or 35 Shots Of Rum.

First Cow isn’t the typical male bonding story between “tough guys” or alpha males trying to establish dominance between each other. Neither Cookie or King are tough alpha males (in fact, Cookie is quite passive & submissive while King is a sneaky and a little secretive). They're both kind of wimpy (and a little cowardly). But they're likeable wimps.
They're also smart (until they aren’t). At the end of the day their joint hustle is meant to make as much money as possible so they can have a better life, but they’re also fully aware of the dynamics and the social structure around them. They’re poor and the person they are stealing from in order to run/fund their business/hustle is rich. Midway in to the movie there are lines of dialogue that seem to suggest they’re taking a little bit of pleasure in stealing from the rich establishment that has its foot on their neck.
This angle is another reason why I appreciate First Cow so much. I almost hate what I’m about to sat but - now more than ever, most films seem to be a response to the current climate surrounding us (Donald Trump, race, the imbalance of wealth, etc). And even when they aren’t – a lot of critics force movies to represent something that they don’t (everything isn't a response to Donald Trump or #MeToo). Instead of being completely on the nose and obvious with her politics & beliefs, Kelly Reichardt relies on her ability to convey subtlety. Certain elements within First Cow relate to today but that’s not the point of the movie. 

Obviously First Cow wont get the same kind of release as other bigger studio films but if it opens near you I encourage you all to seek this out as it could easily get swallowed up and forgotten about in the early part of the year. It also doesn't hurt to support a sometimes unsung veteran female filmmaker who helped to carve a path for others to follow after her. I’ve come to the conclusion that when audiences complain about the lack of female-driven films, they really just want carbon copies of Patty Jenkins, Ava Duvernay & Greta Gerwig and nothing outside of those wheelhouses. Reichardt has been making films for close to three decades and her 2016 film, Certain Women, broke a personal box-office best for her and I saw little to no celebration for that.
I don't mean to dismiss the Wonder Womans & Captain Marvels but there has to be room The Certain Womens & First Cows as well.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...