Since today is a holiday I used the day as an excuse to finally see this civil war movie, still playing two months after its release. The main plot involves a romance between a well-bred lady from Charleston, South Carolina (who is relocated to Cold Mountain) and a Confederate soldier who turns into a deserter.
Those looking for great battle scenes will get only one: at the start of the film. It reenacts in convincingly detail portions of the battle of Petersburg, Virginia. Otherwise the movie consists of vignettes detailing Inman’s desertion and trip home (and his run ins with numerous posses out to kill him) and Ada’s wait for Inman to return. As she waits her town becomes increasingly lawless, her father dies and she becomes impoverished. You grow to love characters who largely end up murdered in not so pleasant ways. I’m sure a lot of this happened during the civil war but so much of it happens in this movie that it strains your credulity after a while.
Overall it is very well acted and directed. And yet the love interest between Ada and Inman lacked the chemistry I assumed would be there. After a while it felt a bit formulaic. It has a “Gone with the Wind” feeling in many places. I expected people to die, Inman to return, Ada to have to grow up, bad things to happen and I wasn’t disappointed. There isn’t much plot here so you have to enjoy the characterization instead, which is generally well done. Nichole Kidman is a great actress but seems a bit miscast in this movie: a bit too pretty to be believable. It felt like she was hired to justify the huge production costs of the movie. While not giving away the ending, at least I can report Ada doesn’t end the movie with a perky, “Oh well, tomorrow is another day.”
It is Renee Zellweger as Ruby Thewes (who ends up helping Ada run her small farm) who makes the movie truly shine. She plays a spunky young lady with grits and determination to surmount bad times. I can see why she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and I would not be surprised if she wins based on this performance; it would be well deserved.
Aside from a lot of violence there are some brief episodes of nudity, which is probably the reason it got the R rating. Some of the bawdiness is a bit disturbing at times. Those hoping to see Nichole Kidman naked (me!) will have to settle for seeing her buttocks and one nipple.
I can see why it didn’t garner a Best Picture nomination, but it is still worth seeing or renting and much better than your typical Hollywood fare. My rating: three and a quarter stars out of four.