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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.27%
Worth A Look39.59%
Average: 14.21%
Pretty Bad: 14.72%
Total Crap: 13.2%

13 reviews, 119 user ratings

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Cold Mountain
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by Alexandre Paquin

"Fiddle-dee-dee for the New Millennium"
1 stars

If there is a film I constantly make a point of avoiding, it is precisely Anthony Minghella's Oscar-winning "epic" "The English Patient." Seven years later, I still haven't seen the film that saw the beginning of Miramax's now notorious method of award campaigning, but based on Minghella's recent atrocity "Cold Mountain," there are very few reasons that recommend the 1996 film to me.

Cold Mountain, set in some picture-perfect mountainous area of North Carolina (filmed in Romania), introduces us to Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), a reverend's daughter, who falls in love with carpenter Inman (Jude Law). Soon enough, but not quickly enough, the American Civil War breaks out, Inman enlists, and Ada Monroe's father (the splendid Donald Sutherland) dies. Inman realizes the futility of the Confederate cause, gets tired of being shot at, and decides to desert, while Ada tries to earn a living with the help of some badly introduced girl named Ruby (Renée Zellweger). Many, many, many minutes and a slew of incomprehensible Zellweger lines later, the ending credits thankfully roll across the screen as welcome as the rain after the drought -- but alas, just like the cavalry, too late.

Minghella, a would-be David Lean without the talent, directs the film with all the self-conscious importance that Cold Mountain's subject matter and release date warrant, and, the truth be told, hardly has a film been as pretentious as this one. It is, overall, in the same vein as Gone With the Wind, just a lot worse. The 1939 classic, after all, was mostly a matter of pride, even revenge, for its resolutely independent producer David O. Selznick, who could still muster some sympathy at that point in his career (that was before he inextricably fell into self-pity when he could not match its success). Directors working on Gone With the Wind were expendable, and Clark Gable was contractually bound to play a part he had no interest in. Whatever pretentiousness the other failed Civil War epic of 2003, Gods & Generals, had was confined to its billionaire financial backer and his peculiar view of American history. Cold Mountain, pretentiousness oozes from across the board, from Minghella, who would undoubtedly like to get a second Oscar for the sake of his mantelpiece's symmetry, to the production company that we can all predict will make sure the film gets the respect it doesn't deserve.

In other words, the whole enterprise screams "hey, I'm an important film," and the desire to get award nominations in every conceivable category seems to drive the entire picture, beginning with the unnecessary Zellweger part. And of course, because of a well-known but unwritten golden rule and the fact she did not win an Academy Award for Bridget Jones's Diary (which I have not seen) or Chicago, the actress must inevitably get an Oscar for Cold Mountain. (She could ask her co-star for practical advice on such matters.) I wish this prediction would turn out to be wrong, for the truth is that Zellweger is about as well-cast as Audrey Hepburn was in My Fair Lady. Hepburn had talent but was completely unsuited to playing a working-class woman in, of all film genres, a musical. Whatever Jack Warner was thinking when he cast her in the part instead of Julie Andrews because he wanted a recognizable name proved extremely misguided. Zellweger has a knack for certain types of roles in romantic comedies (for example, she was quite good in Down with Love), but, just as Hepburn, she should never play a basically unsophisticated woman, as in Chicago and to a worse extent here. But somebody just wants that Oscar for Zellweger, and it's paramount -- or rather, Miramax -- even if it means doing so at the detriment of the film itself.

Then there is Nicole Kidman's Ada Monroe, our Scarlett O'Hara for the New Millennium, whose prissiness protrudes from the film like a mushroom from a rotting log. Kidman has a quite luminous profile which makes her naturally endearing, but here, however, whatever hard work she supposedly performs still looks desperately easy, and her demeanor is in complete contradiction with the nature of the part. Life in the Civil War-era rugged wilderness was not, and should not be portrayed as, a picnic, but, not to worry, though our dear Nicole might run out of food and money to the point of starvation and despair, she will never run out of makeup.

In the meantime, Jude Law tries his very best to run back to Ada while escaping from a particularly nasty Southern militia bent on shooting deserters (not to mention running away from the entire Union army). Law is not a bad actor per se, but the fugitive-from-both-sides theme is by now threadbare, and its treatment is, in this particular case, sadly lacking in continuity, and his chemistry with Kidman, as was pointed out by scores of critics, is in the zero range. Movie gossip had it that Nicole Kidman's erstwhile husband, Tom Cruise, had considered playing Inman in Cold Mountain. When they both starred together in film that also strove to make itself dramatically and patriotically relevant because of its historical setting, the result was Far and Away. With that in mind, I would like to say, thanks, Tom, for staying, well, far and away (I may add: in Japan), even if it just proves somebody can make a bad movie without you.

To make things worse, the film's emphasis is wrongly on romance; the film should have made the most of its wilderness setting instead of attempting to portray Inman and Ada as two lovers separated by hundreds of kilometres of pretty landscapes. The unpredictability of nature, instead of the Civil War, should have been the key to this film, but the cold is never biting, the rains are never torrential, and the snow is never a constant threat both to communication networks and to human life, except for the occasional scene. Cinematographer John Seale understands this, but Minghella himself has no clue. What do you make, for instance, of a man who is shot in the middle of the night then left to die in the snow, but is found still alive the following day? Zellweger's character, upon discovering him, tells Ada to hurry because he is bleeding to death, but in such circumstances, it is not the loss of blood but hypothermia that would have dealt the final blow hours before. But here there is enough time to nurse him back to health -- in a film that isn't particularly in a hurry to conclude, individuals must benefit from some sort of extended longevity, I presume.

The Civil War, tidily disposed of in the film's first half hour (which is the best if you exclude the flashbacks) but still raging in the background for the remainder of the picture, is a red herring. After all, while the male population of Cold Mountain seems particularly eager to enlist in the Confederate army, the Southern cause never acquires some sort of relevance like in Gone With the Wind, and never really catches on in those parts; there is, in fact, no reason why it should. The Cold Mountain community represents the future of the country, not its past like the plantations of Tara and Twelve Oaks. More relevant to Cold Mountain would have been a discussion of the frontier mystique, present in films as diverse as Jeremiah Johnson, Dances with Wolves, and innumerable other Westerns, or even in that stake-your-claim scene in Far and Away. At least, Cold Mountain's setting is not prettified like that of The Yearling (a children's film at any rate), but opportunities are missed all the way through.

Just as in several other films obsessed with its stars and awards, Cold Mountain's real gems are its supporting actors, who perfectly fit the parts and the historical setting, and its cinematography. Overall, however, the film left the same bad taste in my mouth as Gods & Generals did, but for completely different reasons.

"Gods & Generals" glorified the South; "Cold Mountain" glorifies itself -- and I still can't decide which cause is the worst to endorse.

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originally posted: 01/26/04 10:52:28
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell good if this your cup of tea 4 stars
4/20/13 R. Sibley It glorifies the civil war less than Gettysburg or Gods and Generals. Cheesy plot though. 3 stars
11/26/10 Jeff Wilder A better than average Civil War picture. Way better than the overrated English Patient. 4 stars
1/08/09 Rachel a good tomance! 4 stars
11/27/08 little Red pretty good, defidently not an up beat movie 3 stars
11/12/08 YahooBot Nice site, thanks for information! 5 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
7/03/07 Ionicera lacked many of the book's subtleties, but what movie doesn't? 4 stars
5/11/07 mb Good rythm, friendly to watch, but kind of empty and pointless. Without heart. Overkill. 4 stars
8/19/06 Verrine Nice take on Odysseus & Penelope. Loved Renee Zellweger & comic relief dad. 4 stars
8/01/06 R.W.Welch Watchable civil war opus tho much of the dialogue is nearly unintelligible. 4 stars
1/28/06 Steve Newman Get this out on DVD - NOW!! Very very enjoyable 5 stars
1/16/06 Frank Rountree Great story and the acting was superb! 5 stars
9/20/05 Jonathon Holmes save your money for "Return of the King" 2 stars
9/02/05 ES Top three actors in this movie are regular Oscar contenders, Oscars mean nothing 2 stars
5/28/05 Kat bella and Jess Dear Ray we know u adn we r ur biggest fans luv kat jess and bella we put u in our english 5 stars
2/28/05 Ray Lampard A film for grownups at last 5 stars
2/05/05 Amy Bradshaw Beautiful! I love, love, love this movie. Beautiful Story. 5 stars
2/04/05 Aaron Smith Boring and slow. 2 stars
1/20/05 Landshark frequent missteps and boredom on a winding elephantine journey 2 stars
1/08/05 tatum What, all the southern American actors and actresses were busy? 1 stars
12/23/04 Tatiana Pretentious, insipid, and self-conscious of everything but its own suckiness. 1 stars
12/15/04 Etheridge Hoogendijk Yeah! Rather see Nicole Kidman or Natalie Portman ecstaticly end a bout of constipation! 4 stars
12/15/04 Jenna Furr Another sad tribute to dogma that "bodily functions" are strictly for buffoons. The rest OK 4 stars
12/15/04 Evangelica Schnapfenschalz Shows Renee Zellweger CAN act after all. Why waste her in more Bridget Jones's Diarrhea? 4 stars
11/07/04 Carlos Navarro Yuck! 2 stars
11/01/04 Charles S. Lewis Only a partial story of the seige of Petersburg, VA. in 1864 4 stars
10/24/04 Ebert Rogers Made me glad I wasn't born back then 4 stars
10/16/04 Denise Jude Law was good 5 stars
9/13/04 Matt Lousy movie but it reminded me how badly I want to fuck Nicole Kidman. 2 stars
9/05/04 Monster W. Kung Overly melodramatic, with fucking HORRIBLE music. 2 stars
8/28/04 capitalbliss I enjoyed this movie, the soundtrack even more, but it's just a good movie. 4 stars
8/05/04 Chris excellent story. great acting. movie looked great. I enjoyed this film. 5 stars
7/27/04 Phil M. Aficionado Very solid movie, romantic and beautiful. Antiwar and anti-testorone without preaching. 4 stars
7/18/04 Chuck I loved the bird in the Church showed Ada who the real Inman was...sigh... 5 stars
7/12/04 Darryl Jude Law excellent. A pretty good movie, but didn't like ending. Inman should've lived. 4 stars
7/09/04 djacosta Kidman's ass made my mouth water 3 stars
7/06/04 Sara Bosie was awesome! 5 stars
7/04/04 Jeff Semlow Jude Law was great as usual, but overall just a so/so movie 3 stars
6/22/04 S.F Great movie ! 4 stars
6/04/04 Elizaveta Great music, very involving, good characters, horrors of war, etc. Very good, all in all. 4 stars
5/14/04 earl duron great movie with superb acting 5 stars
5/14/04 Idiot's Mouth Muskewitz is a tool--this sucked, HARD! Give Kidman back; Aussies need waitresses too.... 1 stars
4/19/04 y2mckay colorful supporting characters make up for bloated love story and bloated running time. 3 stars
4/15/04 Ashlee It was too much of an anti-climax at the end, didn't feel satisfied after watching it. 4 stars
4/03/04 DM Doesn't suck but a big, bloated disappointment - Good try, though 3 stars
4/02/04 movieboy Wonderful movie. Grear acting from Jude Law and Nicole kidman and defently Renne zellweger 5 stars
3/19/04 Tam Powerful but emotionally draining viewing. Law should have won the Best Actor Oscar! 4 stars
3/18/04 Dasha Very beautiful and very sad 5 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser How bitter is war? Go watch Cold Mtn.! 4 stars
3/06/04 John Doe This is a great movie and tells an intrigueing story 5 stars
3/03/04 Chow Yun Fatt I woud stay with Portman and never return to Cold Mountain 4 stars
3/03/04 A Film Critic ???You, critics, consider "American Pie" better than Fassbinder? 5 stars
3/01/04 bb absolutely fascinating 5 stars
2/29/04 jimmy two times A shitty version of the English Patient meets Gone with the Wind. Minghellahas done better. 3 stars
2/28/04 Kyle All involved have done better. About as gripping and realistic as "See Spot Run". 1 stars
2/16/04 Carolyn Haywood Total disregard for period, place and people! He failed to capture anything but pomp. 2 stars
2/13/04 Ashley Corpening Good! I'm glad it has the chutzpah to depict war crimes by soldiers on both sides. 4 stars
2/11/04 Ixnay on shades of silliest parts of DANCES WITH WOLVES I hope for a day in movies when constipation can strike heros not just villains&buffoons! 4 stars
2/11/04 NC mountain lover who would've liked authentic scenery better C'mon, both Kidman's performance & movie blow "Hours" SO far out of water!! 4 stars
2/01/04 Smitty Kidman in "Hours" was amazing - here she was just sleepwalking - face was always too clean 3 stars
1/31/04 Mary O'Reilly Duclos Shallow, superficial, dishonest, boring,Silly,trite,overblown,oversized and overlong. 2 stars
1/28/04 Travis needs alot of work 2 stars
1/27/04 caleb murphy it sucked, no emotion 1 stars
1/27/04 Cat Smith While I loved English Patient, I found this film boring. 3 stars
1/26/04 JKEEN Depressing, nasty, overly long and painfully boring. Can't remember hating a movie more. 1 stars
1/26/04 Graham I keep telling myself, it's just Oscar-bait. But I still love it. 5 stars
1/25/04 124 renee has to be thee most overrated actress 1 stars
1/24/04 john bale Its not that its such a bad film its just that Gone With The Wind is so good ! 3 stars
1/24/04 alien assassin This was a well made historic drama. If you think it was boring, you must have ADD !!!!! 4 stars
1/24/04 Elena It's a well-crafted movie, but nothing new, and altogether way over-hyped. Kidman is bland. 3 stars
1/20/04 Andy Woodhead Yawn, Boring, Crap 1 stars
1/19/04 esquire gay 3 stars
1/17/04 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. Like a prettily wrapped gift--thats empty. Beautiful but a littletoo cold on Cold Mountain. 4 stars
1/17/04 KingNeutron Sex scene really wasn't necessary; but otherwise enjoyable. Portman was great. 4 stars
1/16/04 Joe Kacmarynski Invoked all my emotions: love, hate, anger, humor,pity. Renee Zellweger for best supporting 5 stars
1/16/04 Ralph R. Clemente Zellweger is great - picture is good 4 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Nice period flavor cannot save this overlong, un-romantic drama. 2 stars
1/12/04 Happy Hour kidman+law=zero chemestry. Movie was dull and slow. 2 1/2 hours of my life wasted. 1 stars
1/10/04 Daniel Movie honors the book. Renée stole every scene. Effects so-so(see turkey shoot- ugh!) 4 stars
1/09/04 Amy Kearns Awsome cast and great movie 5 stars
1/08/04 Mark F. no chemistry between the stars and a silly, silly plot! 2 stars
1/08/04 jdogg bad book=bad movie. this ain't history, folks--it's melodrama. 1 stars
1/08/04 Becca Kidman fine, Law marvellously understated, Zellweger showing us how underrated she has been 5 stars
1/08/04 Sara DeVine That's it Hollywood. I've been abused for the last time! 1 stars
1/07/04 Glen Overcah. Wonderful movie.Kidman,Law and Zellwegger pull you into this world of bygone days. 5 stars
1/06/04 Susanna Terrible movie, poorly written and directed, but Natalie Portman's performance is great. 2 stars
1/05/04 Brenda Cold Mountain is a beautiful poem about the triumph of Venus over Mars. 5 stars
1/05/04 Lily wtf is your reviewer's problem!? It was a GREAT movie! What is he, blind or something? 4 stars
1/03/04 A F How many chances did he have to get on a horse? Predictable and boring! 1 stars
1/02/04 Andrea Watson I think its a great story but i did not feel the chemistry between ada and Inman 3 stars
1/01/04 Soo Can Ho-hum 3 stars
1/01/04 jdogg Book simplistic and overwrought; movie no better. This South better not rise again. 1 stars
1/01/04 Mattie G (Surprisingly) good movie ... Little to no emotional impact after watching though. 4 stars
1/01/04 Jane Smith An awesome movie! Devastatingly romantic! 5 stars
12/31/03 --- Anyone who doesnt like this movie has no taste and should burn in hell 5 stars
12/30/03 ownerofdajoint fantastic flick;war is a motherfucker and love is all there is.... 5 stars
12/30/03 Bryant Smith Whoever said this movie outdid the book did not read the book. Law and Kidman do nothing. 2 stars
12/30/03 George Jung Paint by numbers drama with a bullshit ending and an unlikable hero. 1 stars
12/30/03 Alonzo P. Tucker well, i'd never let that crazy goat lady watch my cats... 2 stars
12/30/03 Kelly B Rapturous love story? Is Corliss of Time on crack? Harlequin romance without Fabio. 1 stars
12/29/03 costars Big, Beautiful, Interesting, Intense, Intimate, from a great book a truly first rate film 5 stars
12/29/03 VERA VANICEK Decent movie, too long 3 stars
12/29/03 smartmusician Its a superb movie with great acting, don't know why many don't like it. 5 stars
12/29/03 Bruce Bowe Too long. Some of the parts are better than the sum of the parts. Bad story premise. 2 stars
12/29/03 Jennifer Where does Anthony Minghella get his overblown ideas of romantic love? Did he read the book 2 stars
12/27/03 jamierich godawful bore... who cares about these characters? 1 stars
12/27/03 Pheasant This little movie sucked the merry right out of Christmas!! Ughhhh! 1 stars
12/27/03 regis dreadful 1 stars
12/26/03 Linda Totally awesome.... 5 stars
12/26/03 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. Fpr a Hollywood movie, what more can you expect? 5 stars
12/26/03 Tom Pugh Good, entertaining production. Grim. Epic values, good music, two endings one a cop out. 4 stars
12/26/03 Rose Donovan very shallow lust story - well filmed 4 stars
12/25/03 Superdave its all right, not great. whats all the hubub about? 3 stars
12/24/03 nuke sleeper bomb 1 stars
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  25-Dec-2003 (R)
  DVD: 29-Jun-2004



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