Lone Star

Without knowing anything about it, I went into Lone Star (1996) expecting a sort of western homage, maybe something like the way that Unforgiven (1992) reworked elements of Shane (1953) for a modern audience. I was surprised to find that although it’s a dirge for the end of the west, it’s less like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and more like The Last Picture Show (1971). That is to say, it’s not a requiem for the lawlessness of the 19th Century, but actually for the end of an earlier era of the 20th. It’s enormous in scope, probably a bit more than Diner (1982) but a bit less than Terms of Endearment (1983), but similar in the number of subplots across generations that it deploys simultaneously. While Lone Star doesn’t have the same emotional authority or performances as these other films, it is in some ways more ambitious. Its interests are broad: family ties, betrayals and reconciliations, race relations, and corruption. And yet despite the breadth of focus it is never superficial. It engages in detail with the struggle of Mexicans, Native Americans, blacks, and whites not only to live together peacefully after terrible atrocities, but also with their desire for history to be represented fairly for each group, which the film shows to be no easy task. It does an admirable job of showing the effects of fathers on sons, and of living up to the standards of previous generations. I personally found none of the performances to be outstanding, but all of them are solid and rather understated, which works well with the thoughtful and reflective mood of the film.

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