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THE THING CALLED LOVE, 1993
Movie Review

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THE THING CALLED LOVE MOVIE POSTER
THE THING CALLED LOVE, 1993
Movie Reviews

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Starring: Samantha Mathis, River Phoenix, Sandra Bullock and Dermot Mulroney
Review by Russell Hill



SYNOPSIS:

An aspiring Country music performer heads to Nashville to become a star.

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REVIEW:

Initially enticed into purchasing this movie simply because of the numerous cowboy hats on the DVD front cover, imagine my surprise when I discovered it to be directed by Peter Bogdanovich and including a stellar cast, such as the late River Phoenix. If you don’t like country music, a shame if you don’t but hey I understand it’s not for everyone, them I’m sure you will appreciate a quality script and sublime acting as well as surprisingly good singing skills by all involved who actually wrote the songs they performed.

Naïve Miranda (Mathis) arrives in Nashville from her New York bus ride and immediately tries out her talents in a local contest in The Bluebird Café, a real life place, which tries to find the next big thing in country music. Within the first few days of arriving in Music City, she meets a number of people who are gigging around town trying to make a name for themselves and a few bucks along the way. Linda Lue (Bullock), whose voice sounds more akin to Ozzie Osborne than Patsy Cline, boyish Kyle (Mulroney) who sports a ten-gallon Stetson, and James (Phoenix); the latter being the most talented of the gang. For Kyle and James, they both take a shine to Miranda but she only has eyes for James and likewise can be said for him. However, like all romances in cinema, things don’t always go to plan with the remainder of the movie focusing on the events that unfold.

Like in Robert Altman’s 1975 movie “Nashville”, the actors and actresses were instructed to write the songs they were to perform. And, as with “Nashville” they are performed to a level that surpasses Pierce Brosnan’s efforts in “Mamma Mia” by miles. Bullock’s efforts are intentionally hilarious and Mulroney isn’t that bad either, but it is Phoenix who impresses. This being one of his last movies, his vocal skills are really good and might have had quite a successful spell in country music.

With the exception of the 1980 movie “Urban Cowboy”, which starred John Travolta, the relationship between the male and female protagonists in many films based on country music can be quite hammy and not at all realistic. But here, the romance of Miranda and James is quite touching that suggests maybe they were more than friends off screen. Some might argue that this is stereotypical movie of girl meets boy, girl dates boy, girl and guy separate and then they are reunited by the films conclusion. But it is much more than that, due to the realism of the main relationship and between other members of this hopeful group. It is quite moving to see at the beginning of the movie that once arriving in Nashville they are quite naïve, thinking that success will be easy and industry bosses will be signing them up with no hesitation whatsoever. But, as some of the gang soon discover of the real world of making it in country music, their dreams are crushed but deal with this defeat quite gallantly. Their emotions are raw and unnerving that seem quite like many who fail in being country music stars and it is testament to the actors involved for the convincing nature of their performances.

This reviewer has to admit that country music is not to everyone’s taste, but this story might be. Its innocent tale of love, pursuit of success, comedy and great direction is certainly worthy of a viewing. This film won Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five other categories. The screenwriter was nominated, and rightly so. Taken from a short story that first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933 by Maurice Walsh, Green Rushes, Frank Nugent was able to weave a story rich in subtext and conflict.

The collector’s edition of the DVD includes an interview with Maureen O’Hara where she reminisces about filming The Quiet Man, and is well worth watching.

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The Thing Called Love


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