It’s hard to say how many stage musicals get adapted to the screen on average each year, but 2014 seems to have produced more than usual. The last year has produced both Jersey Boys and Annie – a pair of pretty terrible movies, regardless of how appreciated or beloved the source material may be. The stage-to-screen transition is a difficult one to pull off where musicals are concerned, but that would never stop a studio from trying. Disney is the latest company to attempt such an undertaking, choosing Rob Marshall (Chicago) to usher Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods to the screen.
The western genre was once a proud staple of the cinematic landscape. On par with dramas and musicals, in their 50’s heyday dozens of westerns were produced each year in the United States alone. They were like the comic book movies of their day. But people have been predicting a saturation point for the comic book movie boom for years, and that seems to be what eventually happened to the western; these days you might get two or three of note, and in an unlucky year one of those might be A Million Ways to Die in the West. The Homesman is here in an effort to bring the genre’s reputation this decade back in line with films like Django Unchained and True Grit. And co-writer/director/star Tommy Lee Jones (of Small Soldiers fame) exercises quite a bit of ambition in the movie’s execution.
Here it is: the latest movie that will serve as an opportunity for thousands of people to say that their childhood has been raped. I hate that phrase, not just because of its trivialization of actual rape (though, obviously), but because it reeks of hyperbole and the desire to “sound interesting” (an impulse I myself have to fight on a daily basis – I often lose). The adaptation of your favorite piece of media from childhood – whether it be a book, a comic, a toy – into a poor film should not detract from your enjoyment of those memories. If you let it alter your past experiences, well you are know worse than those in The Giver who choose to live in ignorance of the past. Memories are essential to the human condition, and that is just one of the ideas that screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide carry over into their version of Lois Lowry’s hit young adult novel. The movie is a faithful transfer in general, actually, and that might be one of the reasons why it just isn’t a very good movie.