Welcome to the anti-western. It's a sad, sad genre. No more glorious John Wayne justice around here.I ask pointless questions all the time: "Where did you buy this?" "Why is the answer to number five 6.52?" "Why did Pip end up with Estella, even though she totally ruined his life?" It annoys many people around me. They accuse me of thinking too much into things that don't matter.
So obviously, this brings me to how I simply don't understand why McCabe & Mrs. Miller is such a revered film. This is what Roger Ebert had to say in his Great Movies entry:
Robert Altman has made a dozen films that can be called great in one way or another, but one of them is perfect, and that one is McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).
I am clearly missing something. I haven't seen many Altman films, but I guess I don't need to watch another one if McCabe & Mrs. Miller is as good as it gets.
So, I think the movie is about this gambler named McCabe (Warren Beatty)? And he ends up in the testosterone-ridden middle of nowhere? And he wants to open a saloon and whorehouse? And he becomes partners with a prostitute named Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) because she understands women better than McCabe does? And McCabe falls in love with her, but she cares more about her opium? And some men want to buy McCabe's property and he refuses and the men decides that it's time to kill McCabe because this is how justice works in the unestablished west?
The film is blurry. I can't hear the conversations half the time. The actors mumble their lines. A billion conversations are going on in a single scene. And apparently, that was the point?
I do like the part where McCabe delivers that monologue where he confesses his feelings for Mrs. Miller. That's really a sweet, lovely moment, especially when he turns and looks at the whorehouse. Almost a little too hopefully sentimental for the film's desperately cynical atmosphere.
Beatty and Christie's performances are terrific in this film, I just don't care much for the world their characters inhabit. Christie is the perfect firecracker here, though I wish her character belonged in an entirely different world that isn't nearly as grim and depressing. And as for Beatty's McCabe, I wanted him to win at the end of the day. Even under all that beard, Beatty is still pretty darn charismatic.
I understand this is a "slice of life" picture. Yet I've seen documentaries more engaging than this film. When I see a movie, I want to see a movie. Not a lifeless portrait filled with too much Leonard Cohen at random intervals.
So enlighten me, please. Explain why McCabe & Mrs. Miller is "perfect," or close to perfect. Ebert had his say. Not even the film's IMDb page includes any disgruntled viewers to refute. C