Saturday, May 12, 2012

Never Netflix This: Meek's Cutoff

     I was actually super excited for Meek's Cutoff. For one, I love modern westerns. Any film that deals with the trials and tribulations of the Old West or prairie life always catches my eye (and attention). I rank Unforgiven, Open Range, Appaloosa, The Proposition and 3:10 to Yuma among some of my favorites of the past 15 years. Meek's Cutoff, which is available to view through Netflix Instant Watch--though I wouldn't waste your time, unless your idea of a good time is watching paint (very) slowly dry--is a recent and low-budget look at a portion of the Oregon Trail journey starring indie-it-girl Michelle Williams.
     Meek's Cutoff is an incredibly realistic look at what this small group of travelers went through as they wandered across an unknown land with unknown danger. Too realistic. The film, with a very small amount of dialogue (not that it's a detriment), shows a band of settlers who are not quite sure if their leader, Stephen Meek, has any clue where he is going. What was supposed to be a two week journey soon turns into five, sort of like going to the DMV to get your licence renewed.
     The group moves across the terrain like old people fucking: slow. Wagons become stuck in the mud, wheels fall off, and threat of Indian attacks always looms largely in the groups' mind. But nothing exciting ever really happens, unless your idea of exciting involves watching people slowly die of dehydration because of dwindling water supply. The men make all of the important decisions, and the women slowly knit their way towards death as their husbands try to decide where to go to find water. Soon they capture a lone Indian. Instead of killing him with knitting needles, the group (the men) decide to keep him alive so he can lead them to the neighborhood swimming hole. Typical questions arise: Is Mr. Indian leading them into a trap? Does Meek have any clue where he is taking the band of survivors? Will this movie ever end so I can play Halo?
     Some people like to say (when a film is shitty), "Wow, look at the cinematography! It's so gosh-darn gorgeous!" And some of the scenery and film angles are quite beautiful. But--unfortunately--that can't help Meek's Cutoff from being an exercise in boredom. There's no payoff: it's just the real experience of some settlers who take the wrong path. Like most anyone's daily life, it's generally not worth getting excited about. Yeah, these unfortunate folks had a rough go of it, but while watching Meek's Cutoff, I felt like I was getting cutoff--at the bar.

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