"Good book...and there's lotsa film in the movie!"
Reading a Tom Robbins novel is like getting a massage from thirty-two angelic beings while the Marx brothers perform brain surgery on you. It’s not that it’s necessarily an unpleasant experience per say, hell it might even be a lot of fun given the right set of circumstances. In any case you are going to have a hard time explaining it to others. Which when you get right down to it is what a director is doing when he tackles a well-known novel. After seeing LOTR it’s harder for me to believe that ANY book is un-filmable, but if there is one odds are it will be a Robbins book.Even Cowgirls get the Blues tells the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a young woman with enormous thumbs who happens to be the world’s most talented hitch-hiker. I’m serious. That is the most basic explanation of the plot possible. However because this is a Robbins novel the plot itself is secondary to what happens along the way. It sounds odd, I know, but this man’s writing style is really a character itself. The road, and the scenery, and very simply being in motion are integral parts of the whole. If you were thinking that none of this sounds particularly visual, you’d be quite correct. And here is where Mr. Van Sant comes in.
Look, the man gets my respect for even having tried, If I were in a position to do such a thing I wouldn’t have picked this book. I would have gone with one of his novels that is at least somewhat more linear. This and that gloriously ill-advised Psycho remake get him the biggest balls (unsuccessful) trophy in my book. I mean any director who looks at a book that features a character called, The Chink, who baby-sits a giant Native-American built time piece that measures ‘cosmic time’ and says to himself; “I can film that” deserves some props in my book.
As it turns out, the material was too much to be interpreted visually. The most unfortunate part of all of this is how much of a let down this was for the people who were really looking forward to this movie. Skip the film; invest in some of Robbins’ books.Aside from seeing Lorraine Bracco wielding a whip, and watching Uma Thurman and Rain Phoenix make out--this film is largely a wash.