McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) (R)
Oops, I'm sorry! Was that offensive? How silly of me, I should have known better. This is actually how I meant to start my review:
Dammit! There I go again.
To be fair "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" is much less about prostitutes and much more about the odd pair of main characters and their interactions. Ah, who am I kidding? The movie's about whores.
Entering the movie with wind blown sound effects and cute hipster guitar music (provided by Leonard Cohen), McCabe (Warren Beatty) rides into a town out West in the dead of winter. He wears a great fur coat and has a very mumbled way of communicating. Parading into a bar he starts a game of cards up between the men there and then we are suddenly supposed to like this man. Infamous as a gun slinger who kill Bill Roundtree (well, actually not infamous or famous for this...this is part of the film's odd sense of humor), McCabe starts to make a name for himself and he decides that he wants to start building a whorehouse.
Fresh off success from their respective careers, "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" seems like an easy win for the director, Robert Altman, and his two stars: Julie Christie and Beatty.
McCabe can't really judge the landscape of business very well and he finds himself overwhelmed by only three whores and an overload of men. While he still constructs his whorehouse, he keeps the wenches outside in whoretents; but this doesn't go that well, considering that one of them tries to stab a man to death.
Enter Mrs. Miller, a whore who is proud of being a whore. She is smart, quick witted, and more tenacious than McCabe in every sense. She has the stomach for the job and she decides to make herself a business partner with McCabe, though he seems somewhat flummoxed by a woman who can speak.
She runs the business for him, while he stumbles around drunk in the night, rejecting important men's business offers.
After a few weeks of doing sensational prostitutional business, McCabe is approached by some very important men who offer him $5,500. He slurs at them drunkenly and waddles off in the night. Later he learns that he probably should have taken up their offer, because these particular men have a tendency of killing whoever turns them down...it's good for business, you see.
So that's basically the entire movie.
The last twenty minutes of the movie are masterfully suspensful, but my question is: what right did it have to end as a thriller? "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" is so sporadic that it never nails down what it wants to do—this is opposed to movies that bounce from style to style and always excel.
Are we supposed to like the two main characters? Because I don't. They don't seem like nice people, which isn't to say that they are evil.
Surprisingly enough, the most offensive part of the movie isn't the constant whore references. No, it comes with a random murder that does absolutely nothing to help the rest of the movie out...it's just there for show.
The movie is odd, I'll give it that, and it is quite beautiful. The shots are eloquent and the acting is nice; but "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" is a film that never really goes anywhere. It, like a wagon stuck in icy mud, spins its wheels desperately and fails to gain any traction.
Posted by Micah Jones