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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.57%
Worth A Look: 5.71%
Average: 2.86%
Pretty Bad: 37.14%
Total Crap45.71%

3 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
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by Chris Parry

"I don't say this often, but think about the audience, people!"
2 stars

Adapting a Tom Robbins book to feature film is a task somewhat akin to building a functioning battleship out of toenail clippings. The proof of this is how bad Even Cowgirls Get The Blues is.

The story of Sissy Hankshaw (Uma Thurman), a girl with enormous thumbs who is the world’s most talented hitchhiker, might seem a little obtuse for mainstream commercial appeal, but that clearly didn’t stop the money-men from saying “it made a fortune as a novel, it’ll be great as a flick” and ignoring the obvious problems at hand. It’s been said that reading a Robbins novel is like getting a massage from 32 angels while the Marx Brothers perform brain surgery on you. Do YOU think that sounds like something that could compete with a Julia Roberts rom-com for an audience?

Filled with characters that are the complete other side of weird, this Gus Van Sant film plays out like a David Lynch affair, with not a lot making sense and the point being rather hard to fathom. The film is littered with characters like The Countess, a white faced transsexual ad guru (John Hurt); The Chink, a reclusive cave guru who offers up pint-sized pieces of wisdom, when he’s not speaking in tongues (Pat Morita); and Bonanza Jellybean, a lesbian cowgirl with a posse of followers (Rain Phoenix). But it’s with the lead character that this film has most problems.

Uma Thurman is one of those actresses that can totally work in a role, but she doesn’t have the presence to handle a wide variety of roles. Gattaca – great. Batman and Robin – not so great. Granted, Sir Larry Olivier might have had trouble making something good out of a script that cheesy, but you get my point. Uma’s not an everywoman. She’s not a housewife. She’s not a tough bitch. She’s a fine artist or a drunk or a flake, but she’s not an everywoman.

Though to be honest with you, I’ve no freaking idea what actress out there would make a good ‘girl with enormous thumbs who hitchhikes a lot’. That’s kind of a narrow focus.

Gus Van Sant, as fine a director as he is, seems as lost as anyone in this outing. While parts of the film border on dramatic, others seem to be so far over the top comedic that all believability flies out the window. A scene where John Hurt gets biffed in the head, then spins around the room in a daze, flops into a chair, then bounces out and flops to the floor is the kind of stuff the Keystone Cops would have rejected as ‘too silly’.

I felt uncomfortable watching this film from the very first few seconds of the movie. I don’t know if it was those prosthetic thumbs or the sight of twenty cowgirl bull-dykes charging with their pants around their ankles while claiming they hadn’t washed their vaginas for six days. It felt like someone trying to be David Lynch but without the true madness that drives him to be truly original. Like Lynch’s own work, Angel Heart, when the ‘wackiness’ isn’t really that wacky, the whole thing ends up looking very try-hard and leaves the actors out to dry.

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues is an abject failure in that respect, with nearly every scene leaving someone looking lost and not even the director seeming to really understand what it was he was trying to achieve.

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originally posted: 01/04/03 18:32:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/25/18 Louise I can't remember anything about this film - which is not a good sign. 2 stars
9/11/13 Jeff Wilder Disaster is too mild a description. 1 stars
3/21/11 art i GIVE it two THUMBS UP! 4 stars
12/01/09 Guillermo Vicéns kitt4film: It turned you off who?! Don't you mean Tim Robbins? 1 stars
10/11/09 rm I wanted to like this film, but it's one of the worst films I have ever seen. EVER. 1 stars
3/06/08 Bob Farm Sucks! 1 stars
1/11/08 Jimmy Cox Great 5 stars
4/26/07 Heidi Henkel The soundtrack is good. 3 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt So awful! Without its awfulness it never would have received such cult classic status. 1 stars
3/12/03 Blabity blah Absolutely Worst Film EVER. 1 stars
1/10/03 I hated this film and it turned me off Tim Roberts forever!!!! 1 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Repellent and whoppingly inept. 1 stars
1/09/01 Keanuette Bad film but KEANU'S in it so has to get 5 stars! 5 stars
7/13/00 Tom Interesting film. 4 stars
10/26/99 Dr. Fardook Book is better (as always) but still... fabulous 5 stars
7/05/99 Sleeper Utter rubbish 1 stars
6/16/99 David Van Sant got lucky with "Drugstore Cowboy"; this is the type of film he's really capable of 1 stars
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  02-Jul-1993 (R)
  DVD: 02-Nov-2004

  06-Jan-1995 (15)

  02-Feb-1995 (M)

Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant
  Tom Robbins

  Uma Thurman
  Lorraine Bracco
  Pat Morita
  Angie Dickinson
  Keanu Reeves
  John Hurt

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