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Less Would Have Been More

  • Mar 12, 2004
For me, this film would have had much greater dramatic impact had director Anthony Minghella not attempted to cover too much, or if that coverage had been in sharper focus and more cohesive. Adapted by him from Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain, his film examines

* a Civil War South variation on Odysseus's return to Ithaca

* an implausible romance between Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and Inman (Jude Law)

* the horrors of war which largely explain Inman's desertion (for many of the same reasons why John Dunbar flees from "civilization" in Dances with Wolves)

* an estranged, indeed dysfunctional relationship between Ruby (Renee Zellweger) and her father Stobrod Thewes (Brendan Gleeson)

* the abusive and oppressive, at times vicious Home Guard in the Cold Mountain (NC) area under the absolute control of Teague (Ray Winstone)

* Ada's severely difficult adjustment to the Civil War's impact on her and her father, as well as her struggles to keep her farm

Of course, there are also several related story lines (sub plots, actually) but these six receive most of Zinghella's attention. As indicated earlier, I think he attempts to cover too much within the parameters of a commercial film, even one with a running time of 155 minutes which this one has.

Ada and Inman spend almost no time together before he departs for the war. They are indeed an odd couple: she is a reticent, cultured, proper beauty (the archetypical Southern Belle) and he is also reticent, almost to the point of being mute but lacks her culture and refinement. As I observed their brief and awkward interaction in the film, there seemed to be almost no chemistry between them, perhaps because there was little chemistry between Kidman and Law. My hunch (only a hunch) is that Inman's revulsion to the horrors of war rather than his attraction to Ada explains his obsession to return "home." That is, what he flees is a much greater motivation than is what (who) awaits him. One man's opinion.

All that said, I think Zellweger deserved her Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role. I also think the cinematography (John Seale) and musical score (Gabriel Yared) are especially effective. The opening sequence which includes a defining moment, indeed an epiphany for Inman, is masterfully presented. It invites comparisons with the final sequence in Glory. Cold Mountain has memorable moments and some excellent performances. For reasons indicated, however, I think the film falls short of greatness for many of the same reasons that other recent films have. (Gangs of New York, for example.) More often than not, less really can be more.

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Robert Morris ()
Ranked #168
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Freely adapted from Charles Frazier's belovedbestseller,Cold Mountainboasts an impeccable pedigree as a respectable Civil War love story, offering everything you'd want from a romantic epic except a resonant emotional core. Everything in this sweeping, Odyssean journey depends on believing in the instant love that ignites during averybrief encounter between genteel, city-bred preacher's daughter Ada (Nicole Kidman) and Confederate soldier Inman (Jude Law), who deserts the battlefield to return, weary and wounded, to Ada's inherited farm in the rural town of Cold Mountain, North Carolina. In an epic (but dramatically tenuous) case of absence making hearts grow fonder, Inman endures a treacherous hike fraught with danger (and populated by supporting players including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and others) while the struggling, inexperienced Ada is aided by the high-spirited Ruby (Renée Zellweger), forming a powerful farming partnership that transforms Ada into a strong, lovelorn survivor. The film's episodic structure slightly weakens its emotional impact, and it's fairly obvious that director Anthony Minghella is striving to repeat the prestigious romanticism of his Oscar®-winning hitThe English Patient. For the most part it works, especially in the dynamic performances of Zellweger and Kidman, and the explosive 1864 battle of Petersburg, Virginia, is recreated with violent, percussive intensity. Those who admired Frazier's ...
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Director: Anthony Minghella
DVD Release Date: June 29, 2004
Runtime: 154 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
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