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“Down in The Valley”
Tony Farinella
Studio: Think Film
Genre: Drama
Special Features: Filmmaker and actor Q and A. Deleted Scenes. Trailer Galery. Trailer for the film.

'Down In The Valley' is an old fashioned western with a new age twist and shows off the intense acting talents of two of the riskiest actors working today in Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood. Director and writer David Jacobson has written a story of love, isolation, and tragedy set to the gorgeous background of the western. It is a moody, dark, and extreme look at the measures people go to hold onto someone, anyone. Think of the film as 'Taxi Driver' set in a western. ***

Evan Rachel Wood stars as Tobe, a rebellious teen who does as she pleases and has no real interest in listening to anything her sheriff father has to say. Her father is played by David Morse in a very inward performance of not knowing how to really communicate with his daughter or get through to her. He also has moments of being anything but inward when he snaps at her with physical and verbal violence. This only fuels her anger and hatred for her father. ***

Their relationship gets even worse when she meets a handsome, charismatic cowboy named Harlan played by one of the best actors of this generation in Edward Norton. Their relationship turns passionate and only grows from their chance encounter. This enrages her father due to the obvious age difference and the cowboy not seeming as sweet as he appears. There is more to him than meets the eye. He even starts a friendship with her younger and naive brother played by Rory Culkin. ***

Harlan starts to lose his grip on reality when her father forbids them from seeing each other. He also gets kicked out of his apartment due to his bizarre cowboy rituals in his apartment. His loneliness and alienation cause him to attempt to get back the girl and everything that goes with her. His mental breakdown leads to violence, manipulation, and more questions about this cowboy. Just who is this guy? ***

The film is acting 101 as everyone gives some of the best performances of the year. Evan Rachel Wood, who has made a living playing rebellious, hard-nosed, out of control, yet very sexy teens (Pretty Persuasion, Thirteen, and the Upside of Anger) is right at home with this role. She hits emotional notes that gave me goosebumps. She has the acting talents and range of someone twice her age. ***

Edward Norton is terrific in this role as you never truly know what is going on with him. His character is not made crystal clear or spelled out for you. He is in a sense bi-polar. He plays both roles very well. One as a charming, caring, and sweet cowboy shades of Jon Voight in 'Midnight Cowboy.' He also plays an over the top, gone from reality, and lonely man in the same vein of Robert De Niro in 'Taxi Driver.' Norton has a great eye for films that work for him. He's picky, but for a reason. ***

Writer/Director David Jacobson shoots scenes that rival that of Ang Lee's 'Brokeback Mountain' in the beauty, and simplicity of shots. Long and hanging shots over the gorgeous scenery. This is visually stunning for the eyes. The film was shot on an 8 million dollar budget and proves you don't need 100 million dollars to make a film like authentic and beautiful. Just look around you. ***

--- Image & Sound: The film looks amazing as it shows all the great shots of this Western. ---

Special Features:

Trailer for the film and other Think Film projects.

Edward Norton and David Jacobson Q and A with film critic Peter Travers from Rolling Stone: This is informative and entertaining. Norton is well spoken and intelligent as he goes into why he did the project and meeting the director. The director shares his experiences and how they affected the film. It lasts a little over 20 minutes.

Deleted Scenes: Nothing too noteworthy here. We get a scene that gives a little background on the Norton character, but I could see why it was taken out. It was long and tedious. We also get Morse and Culkin in a deleted scene that didn't really work. The film ran a total of 114 minutes, and these scenes were not needed. But you can see them here.

Final Words:

'Down In The Valley' is a fine piece of film making that is well acted, powerful, and sure to leave you thinking for hours upon its end. No characters are black and white ; they are shades of gray. 'Down in the Valley' shows off the power of independent cinema when it is done right.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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