Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 7 Beans
et me say firstoff that I believe Gus Van Sant is a great director. The man has produced some truly amazing films including "Drugstore Cowboy", "To Die For" and "My Own Private Idaho". His adaptation of Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" is, however, not one of them. Like the great Robert Altman, when he's good he's among the best in the world, but when he misfires, he creates one truly horrible mess.
Yet, I can't really blame Van Sant. Why you ask? This film originally was scheduled for release in late 1991, but Fine Line forced him to re-edit, reshoot, and trim his film. During 1992 the film was bumped week after week and word spread that he again was sent to rework and restructure. By the actual release in 1993 it is quite obvious that there was a nugget of something good, but after whatever patch-up job Van Sant was required to do, the result is truly head-scratching. Who knows what the film's original cut was like?
Uma Thurman stars as Sissy Hankshaw, a feminine-hygiene model and self-proclaimed "professional hitchhiker" with giant thumbs. The plot (and I use the term ever so loosely), has to do with her visit to the Rubber Rose Ranch, a health resort for women, and her induction into the rebellious cowgirls who work there. The cowgirl leader, named Bonanza Jellybean, is played (poorly I might add), by Rain Phoenix. Sissy and Bonanza become lovers, and with the cowgirls' help, take over the ranch and try to save a flock of cranes.
That's about it really. The large cast includes John Hurt in pancake makeup (as "the Countess"), Angie Dickinson, Lorraine Bracco, Keanu Reeves, Grace Zabriskie, Pat Morita and even loads of cameos by Roseanne, Sean Young, Carol Kane, Crispin Glover and Victoria Williams.
Their are two huge problems that this film just can't recover from. The first is the completely outdated material, written in the 70's, that contains endless speeches dealing with feminism, cowgirl philosophy, and "feminine odor" that just induces laughter instead of insightful "ooh man" responses. Secondly, the editing is truly godawful. Scenes seem to begin and end at random without a thread of cohesion, characters come and go in rapid succession without any explanation, until you are left wondering who did what to who and why.
To be able to succeed with this material the film really needed to be a lot longer. But at a scant 90 odd minutes, there is just too much going on.
The best way to truly enjoy this clunker would be to consume massive quantities of hallucinagenics. It really couldn't hurt.
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