Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Ain't Them Bodies Saints

I'd never heard of AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS until it popped up on a Netflix recommendation. I'm not surprised that it didn't get much attention when it was released. It's not really designed to be a big box-office blockbuster. But that doesn't mean it isn't a pretty good film.

This movie is pure redneck noir, set in Texas during what appears to be the 1970s, although the time is never specified. A young couple, Bob and Ruth (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) are going to have a baby and trying to make a life for themselves, but unfortunately that involves Bob participating in an armed robbery with his best friend. Things go wrong, as they always do in stories like this, and in the resulting shootout with the police, Bob's friend is killed and Ruth wounds one of the cops before they're captured. Bob takes the blame for what Ruth did, however, and he's sent off to prison for 25 years.

Ruth, still pregnant, is given a place to live by the father (Keith Carradine) of the young man who was killed in the shootout with the police. I think Carradine's character may have been a criminal, too, but that part of the plot was never really clear to me. Ruth gives birth to a daughter, and over the next few years, while Bob is in prison, she develops an unlikely friendship with the very cop she wounded (Ben Foster), who doesn't know that she's the one who shot him. Clearly, Foster's character would like for that friendship to be something more.

Then Bob breaks out of prison and heads back to the little Texas town they're all from so he can be reunited with Ruth and the daughter he's never seen.

All of that is set up fairly quickly, and that's it for the plot, too. The rest of the movie is waiting to see whether or not Bob is going to reach his destination and what's going to happen if he does. That also gives you a hint of this movie's biggest problem: it's sloooow. Not just leisurely paced, but really, really slow.

That's usually a deal-breaker for me when it comes to movies, but I'm inclined to give AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS a little leeway because the acting is very good all around and the dialogue is really well-written. The movie looks great, too, and does a fine job of capturing the time and place in which it's set. Someone named David Lowery wrote and directed the film, and he's definitely got some talent. It's clear he set out to make a slow burn of a suspense movie, and I can't fault him for that since he accomplished his goal.

Some of the reviews I read compared this movie to Terence Malick's BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN. I can see that. I liked BADLANDS, didn't care for DAYS OF HEAVEN. And overall I liked AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, too. I think it's worth watching.


Bill Crider said...

I remember seeing the trailer for this one and thinking it looked pretty good. And then, poof!. It just disappeared. I'm glad to know it's found a home on video. Maybe I'll get to it one of these days.

Todd Mason said...

Likewise, I marked this one with one eye, but it got past me. Soonish.

tsreads Mason

That's not too NSA-esque. ("Don't be Seen as evil.")