Cold Mountain

Cover Art: 5/10
I’m not sure what marketing people are thinking when they put together the package to promote a movie. I wonder if they know that they often end up selling a movie that does not exist. Cold Mountain is a fairly gritty, if not semi-glamorous, Civil War drama that doesn’t quite match the glitzy flashy sexy DVD cover art. I understand selling the beautiful people on the front to get attention, but the gloss of the image doesn’t quite match the tone of the film. I just wonder what is the actual motivation of people who design DVD covers, movie posters, etc. Do they even see the movies they are selling? Do they know that what they put on the cover or on the poster is supposed to be an invitation to see a movie, and invitation that is a teaser, or a hint at what the movie is about? This cover makes Cold Mountain look like an epic modern tale of a love triangle (which could not be further from the truth) with a little thing called the Civil War tossed in for good measure.

I would like to have seen at least a scene from the movie, something gory, bloody, disturbing. That would have been more appealing than Kidman’s mug made up for her glamour shot like all starving, wretched, poor, lonely, despondent women were back in those days. 😛

The cover is a wash for me. It’s too much Hollywood, too unimaginative, and too different from what the movie is really like, so I give it a flat old furry 5.

Extras: 8/10

  • Feature Commentary With Anthony Minghella & Walter Murch – Minghella is a truly artist and passionate film maker. He tells a story in a way that draws you in from start to finish, even if the subject matter is not exactly what you  normally find appealing. He is a great one for commentary because he discusses his process of putting a film together from its original text in the novel to the final cut in the editing room. His gentle but intense love of the people and story comes through as he tells anecdotes from the 117 day shoot, which is a HUGE movie shoot.
  • Climbing Cold Mountain – Once in a while a director has just enough ego to film him/herself throughout the whole process of making a movie. This time we hit the jackpot. I think that Minghella is a genuinely creative person with an eye for the epic storytelling thing, but he also likes to hear himself talk about it, and I appreciate the fact that he happened to have a camera on him most of the time while he was doing the talking. There are clips of him in different settings at different stages of making Cold Mountain where he discusses how the whole thing came together. Kidman and Law, along with Zellweger and others round off the featured cast and crew in this documentary special feature. I personally love to hear and see as much from behind the scenes as possible, so I think this extra bumped up this DVD to being one best middle of the range DVD’s out there.
  • A Journey To Cold Mountain – This is a short TV special meant for promoting the film. I never really get into these things much unless they go that extra mile to be interesting or exciting, but this one is pretty much just an overview of the stars, story, and what might catch the public’s attention to go see it when it hit the theaters.
  • Words & Music Of Cold Mountain – A stage presentation of the script and music from Cold Mountain.
  • Deleted Scenes – Sometimes a scene is deleted from a movie and you can’t imagine why. There are a couple of scenes that take parts of the story in such different directions it’s really difficult to think why the director or editor would cut them out. I’m just thrilled to see them on the DVD and be able to splice them into the movie at least in my mind.
  • Storyboard Comparisons – I’m an artsy kind of gal so I love the story boards of any movie. I like to see how the director envisioned a scene and how he drew or had it drawn, and then see the final finished film version. Often they are exactly the same, but sometimes they have evolved into something totally different. I like the process of film making so it’s fascinating to know how the original idea blossoms into what we see on the screen.

The Movie: 8/10:
You might wonder why I would give an Academy Award winning film only and eight out of ten….well, let me tell ya. It’s a wonderful movie that I think is a must see for anyone who loves big stories with bigger than life obstacles for the hero to go through, graphic scenes of an historic period like the Civil War, and if you just plain love a honking big 3 hour movie watching commitment. In fact I think it ranks up there with the best of the epics I’ve seen in many years. I am thrilled to have such a big movie to sink my teeth into because it’s got so much going for it from the amazing sets, scenery, and art design to the story, the characters and their circumstances. I do have to admit, however, that there is something missing.

Have you ever seen a movie that’s entertaining, looks great, good story, and generally worth your money, but when it’s over you just don’t have that “WOW that was fantastic” kind of feeling? I have seen movies like Magnolia, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Groundhog Day, and others that leave me with a movie lovin’ glow. There is something special, stand out, interesting, intriguing, powerful, or gripping somewhere in the story, the characters, the setting, the idea, or even as simple as the dialogue that makes you want to see it over and over again. Cold Mountain was wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it falls short of that “WOW” and comes in somewhere between, “Whoa” and “Hmmm”.

For me Kidman is good, but not great. She’s elegant and beautiful, undeniable, but sometimes that comes between her and this role as a fallen Southern Bell, or at least between her character and me. Her character in Cold Mountain is a broken, alone, desperate young woman left to fend for herself during a horrible time in American history. She has no money, no food, no means of self support, and so she is left with a semi-glamorous hair do, bright red cheeks, eye liner, and a very healthy glow (which might come from being a big movie star behind the corsets and the period costumes). Everyone else is pretty roughed up in this movie. From mud to blood they all get a healthy dose of grunge and de-beautification, but not Kidman. I had the sense that her stylist was right behind the camera waiting for a “cut” to jump in and touch up her well tended complexion. Yes, I’m being picky. I admit it. I don’t think that’s the only thing that distracted me from completely falling in love with this movie, but it all does boil down to Kidman’s character and the scenes featuring her character.

Jude Law, as always, is excellent. I think Law puts his all into a roll and takes it so completely seriously that he almost becomes that person. I felt a few instances when Kidman fluttered and smiled a bit to easily as if she were not lost in the roll, but barely hanging onto it for the sake of a scene. Zellweger has her moments of over-the-top caricature of the rough neck woman she is portraying, but overall she nails the spirit and attitude of her late 1800’s counterpart. She won an Oscar, so who am I to argue with that? hahaha

There is a battle scene that is so riveting I had tears in my eyes at the thought that it was even a hint of what the real thing must have been. That’s where the glamour stops and the grit begins. There is a lot of mud and muck in this film, as there would have been back in the days of hand to hand combat and no paved roads. I like the dirtiness as long as no shining Hollywood glam comes shining through, (eh hem…Ex Mrs. Cruise)

The story is the crowing achievement of this film, without a doubt. Taken from a novel this is a classic story of the human condition when set against war time and peppered with romantic overtures to draw us in that much closer. I love the idea of overcoming all odds and obstacles to reach your true love, or a place that represents sanity, calm, serenity and a peaceful life. The obstacles that all the characters of Cold Mountain face are huge, but not unbelievable. Some meet with tragedy, some with salvation, but all of them do struggle. It’s the fortitude and the “let’s just get on with it” attitude that real people in similar situations have that these characters bring to the story and it’s uplifting, even when things don’t work out just right.

The look of the movie is over the top stunning. The effort taken by the producers to infuse as much reality as possible pays off, even if the Civil War is being fought in Romania, who cares? The landscapes are lovely to experience as the seasons pass and a man’s journey back to Cold Mountain becomes a tour guide to the American South East.

Costumes and sets are also a part of what makes this movie so visually appealing. Every piece of clothing, every chair, every building is carefully reproduced to complete the illusion.

There are unexpected jewels in this movie that make it such a joy to experience, like the amazing special effects, battle scenes, and make it one of the most satisfying three hour flicks on the market these days. I love long movies, and Cold Mountain delivers at every turn of the camera.

So, if I mostly love the acting, totally love the scenery, respect the writing, love the story, appreciate the sets and costumes, why oh why don’t I give this movie a big fat 10/10? I can’t explain it other than I really didn’t enjoy Kidman in a lot of her scenes and I was not convinced, as I should have been, that she was in such a desperate situation. She just didn’t have the powerhouse performance or fit the role or something. It’s fine to keep the talent looking good, but to be building a fence with a well tended hair do and rosy rouged up cheeks with dark eyeliner, dark eyebrows and bleach blonde hair, while you are supposed to be so desperate for money and food that you have to be fed by your neighbors, begging for food from the local store, and even sold your family’s piano for a bit of cash, well, call me a cynic…it’s ok I can live with it. Sometimes those things just don’t bother me at all, but then sometimes it snowballs into a situation where it kind of taints a movie. It’s not the end of the world, I still love Cold Mountain for everything else, and I know my weird hang up about Kidman shouldn’t color the score, too badly. Losing 1 point for cutting out some amazingly important scenes to shorten the movie, and losing 1 point for Kidman, I give the movie an 8/10.

Value: 7/10
Despite my ambivalence about Kidman, I do love this movie and the DVD is well stocked for such a modern classic tale of war and love. I would have to say that $20 is not outrageous, but I would wait until Christmas when I bet you a nickel that the price drops for those stocking stuffer specials.

Overall Score 8/10