My wife and I spent the majority of the weekend writing and editing my latest story. We’re almost done and hope to have it submitted this week. We took a break to watch The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). It stars Brad Pitt as Jesse and an amazing performance by Casey Affleck as Ford. The film is definitely a character study and takes its time telling the story, which I don’t mind but some may consider slow. James was never considered a hero in my neck of the woods but to a great many mid-westerners and southerners, he was a modern day Robin Hood who fought back against the unfair reconstructionist period following the Civil War. By the time he was killed in 1882, he was a larger than life hero who rivaled Mark Twain in iconic status. Brad Pitt, who knows a thing or two about celebrity himself, plays a paranoid world-weary James to perfection. I know Pitt’s good looks have always overshadowed his acting, but in Assassination, he turns in a solid performance.
However, as noted, Affleck is superb and steals the show as Ford in what can only be described as a creepy performance. His near infatuation, or love, if you will, for Jesse steadily turned into an opportunistic decision to become as famous as the legendary outlaw. After James’s death, Ford went on to reenact the day he killed Jesse James to packed theaters and, by his own account, “kill him” over eight hundred times. At first, the enthusiastic crowds ate up his performance. Ultimately, the audience grew dubious and began greeting him with jeers. His star fell as quickly as it rose. Ford’s immaturity and his inability to handle his new-found notoriety became his biggest burden. As the film wraps up with the 30 year old man reflecting on his poor choices, Affleck manages to garner some sympathy toward the character.
I’d recommend this movie about the man known as the “dirty little coward” who killed Jesse James.