The ads called it the long-awaited sequel to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, but it's doubtful there were many clamoring to find out what happened to the cross-section of losers in the godforsaken Texas town that first came to the screen in 1971. But in Hollywood today, whole movie seasons can pass
with nothing but familiar titles followed by numbers. As long as there's a buck to be made, nothing and nobody is safe from the cinematic deja vu syndrome. Still, writer-director Peter Bogdanovich, working from novelist Larry McMurtry's literary sequel and reuniting most of the major cast members
from the original, has come up with a surprisingly smart, funny, and heartfelt mood piece, despite a muddled, overstuffed plot.
Set in 1954, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW explored how its characters suffered under the repressive, hypocritical morality of the era in a small Texas town. TEXASVILLE, set in the same town 30 years later, looks at how the same characters have fared in the age of personal liberation. Are they having fun
yet? Hint: If they were, there wouldn't be much reason for making a movie about them. TEXASVILLE is told from the point of view of Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges), whose mood swings between exhaustion and depression. A part-time oil wildcatter in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Duane now has an oil-drilling
business that has made him rich. However, since the year is 1984, OPEC has lifted its embargo and declared its intention to flood the world market with crude oil to bring prices back to their pre-embargo level. This couldn't come at a worse time for Duane, who is $12 million in debt to Lester
Marlow (Randy Quaid), the dorky rich kid who hosted the skinny-dipping party in the first film, and who is now the dorky president of the local bank. Life is not much better on the home front for Duane. His penchant for infidelity has created a major rift between him and his waspish but
essentially loving wife, Karla (Annie Potts). Son Dickie (William McNamara) is fast following in his father's footsteps, creating problems at home for his fiancee (Allison Marich) and for others all around town because of his special enthusiasm for wandering wives, including Lester's missus, whom
Dickie has gotten pregnant. Meanwhile, Duane's voluptuous daughter (Katherine Bongfeldt) breaks engagements as easily as Hollywood agents cancel lunch dates, and his youngest kids, a twin boy and girl, scandalize the town with their precociously bawdy antics. Also troubling Duane is the quiet
return of his old flame, Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd). An eccentric recluse frazzled by three decades of starring in B movies in Italy, she is in mourning over the recent death of her son. Equally reclusive and eccentric is Duane's erstwhile rival for Jacy, Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms), who
is slowly slipping into insanity. Sonny has more or less taken over the role Ben Johnson's Sam the Lion played in the life of the town in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. In addition to owning several storefront businesses, Sonny also holds the deed to the burned-out old movie theater that was so central to
the first film, and he can still be found there from time to time, watching imaginary movies playing in the sky. Sonny's secret lover in the original film, Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), who now works as Duane's office manager, has becomes something of a mother to Sonny, taking care of him and
trying to keep him out of danger. The plot, such as it is, primarily concerns the impending celebration of the county's centennial and Jacy's deepening involvement in the lives of everyone in Duane's family but Duane himself. At the film's climax, with the centennial celebration descending into
chaos, Jacy is about to spirit Duane's entire family away to her house in Italy.
TEXASVILLE's main flaw is that it comprises two incompatible films uncomfortably rolled into one. Comical couplings and their farcical repercussions are at the center of the film that culminates in the town celebration. The other film, concerning Duane's attempts to make peace with the past when
confronted with Jacy, leads to his last-ditch effort to keep his family from slipping away from him. For the most part, the drama tends to deflate the comedy, and the comedy tends to derail the drama. Also working against the film is an overall choppiness, the apparent product of editing-room
tampering. Character relationships become so confused that you may feel you need a program to keep track of who's sleeping with whom; major plot points sneak by in single, often-mumbled snippets of dialog.
Very much on the plus side, the cast is as inspired an ensemble now as it was in 1971, with newcomer Potts bringing a welcome jolt of comic energy, though Quaid, gobbling analgesics while anguishing over his collapsing financial "empire," winds up getting the movie's biggest laughs. Bridges turns
in his usual skillfully laid-back performance in the lead, though he's hampered by his two-note, inarticulate character. Shepherd, as in her past efforts for Bogdanovich, is effectively cast here more for type than for talent, inhabiting her role rather than acting it. But though her performance
doesn't have the finesse of a Streep outing, it is, nevertheless, realistic and convincing. The big surprise, however, is Bottoms, who reportedly was reluctant to join the project, but who provides the movie's emotional core as the quietly crumbling Sonny.
Although Bogdanovich never seems to have decided exactly what type of movie he was making, his work here is never less than competent, and it is inspired just often enough to keep the film compelling. At its best, TEXASVILLE is a member of an increasingly rare Hollywood breed, movies that are made
by adults, about adults, and for adults. It's about and for people who have been around the block a few times, who have had to surrender some of their dreams while looking for ways to pay the bills, and who have tried to find some measure of happiness with the onset of diminishing expectations. As
movies go, it's far from perfect, but it's always human. (Profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: The ads called it the long-awaited sequel to THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, but it's doubtful there were many clamoring to find out what happened to the cross-section of losers in the godforsaken Texas town that first came to the screen in 1971. But in Hollywood t… (more)