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URBAN COWBOY, 1980
Movie Review

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URBAN COWBOYURBAN COWBOY, 1980
Movie Review

Directed by James Bridges
Starring: John Travolta, Debra Winger
Review by Russell Hill



SYNOPSIS:

A young man moves to Texas where he tries to win the heart of a fiery woman who visits the same Honky Tonk he does.

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REVIEW:

With a stellar cast and a soundtrack to boot, this movie of love, country music and having a good time with your pals is one not to be missed. With John Travolta as the protagonist, this movie was released at a time when Travolta was at his most popular with “Grease” being released merely two years beforehand. With great support by other members of the cast, this is one such movie that exceeds quality from the start.

Arriving in Texas sporting a beard that would make Blackbeard envious, Bud Davis (Travolta) moves in with his Uncle Bob. Obtaining a job with his said Uncle at the local oil refinery, he tries as best as he can to fit in. By visiting Gilleys, a real-life honky-tonk that was still in operation right up until 1989, he soon becomes the talk of the bar and soon meets Sissy (Winger). Acting nothing like her name, she is a feisty gal who can easily handle herself in a bar-room brawl. They soon become lovers, but when a mechanical bull arrives in town Sissy catches sight of ex-con Wes (Glenn) who operates the Bull. Bud realises he has serious competition, and must win back Sissy’s heart by winning a local Bull-riding contest. Will he succeed? Only time will tell.

A confessed country music fan, this film looked might fine simply because of its soundtrack. Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Daniels Band and even the leader of the Parrotheads himself, Jimmy Buffett, contribute towards the films soundtrack. It doesn’t take great songs to make an awesome film, but with a solid screenplay demonstrating quality directing. “Urban Cowboy” exhibits all these factors, as well as sublime performances by the main characters. John Travolta really is quite a revelation, and shows that at that particular point in his career he wasn’t just a pretty face who could do some mighty fine grease lightning. The determination by Bud to win back the heart of Sissy is nothing short of genius, and puts himself through the paces in order to do this. Wes is eye candy to Sissy, and to be quite honest Bud doesn’t quite match up. In the true vein of Hollywood, there is only one way of doing this and that is proving his physical strength, thus humiliating his romantic opponent. When Bud goes that extra distance to do this, you really can believe in his efforts and the goals that he hopefully will accomplish.

Having not heard of Winger beforehand, I was most impressed by her depiction of Sissy. Hers is not a placid characterisation, and when surrounded by men towering over her pure acting brilliance is required in order to stand out. Yes I agree that the camera operating could make her the main subject on screen, but it is due to some sublime acting that, so to speak, makes her stand out from the rest of the crowd. A full range of emotions are demonstrated here, ranging from pure elation to sadness, and demonstrated to a quality not seen by many actresses of her age at the time of the movies release. It is to this reviewers’ great sadness that other movies she has appeared in, apart from “An Officer and a Gentleman”, are not familiar to myself and a chance to revive her career by appearing in a mainstream film is surely required. After all, if it can happen to Mickey Rourke as seen in “The Wrestler” than why not Debra Winger?

The other main supporting actor is Scott Glenn, and his portrayal of Wes really is top-drawer. Having only seen him as desk-jockey Jack Crawford in “Silence of the Lambs”, this performance really is quite a revelation. It could be said he acts as eye-candy, but just like Sissy a full range of emotions are displayed. At the beginning of the movie he is this mysterious character who hides many secrets but towards the end he is quite loathsome. How this is achieved is something I won’t divulge, but the manner in which he goes about changing people’s opinion within a short space of time really is something else.

Despite my musical attraction to “Urban Cowboy”, mostly due to Jimmy Buffett singing the opening track, I found myself quite impressed at this movie which exhibits a quality script and sublime acting by all involved. Many attempts have been made to make a good quality film that includes tracks from the great genre that is country music, and with “Urban Cowboy” a classic is certainly created. I sure raise my Stetson to that.

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