Silver City ★★★

I had heard little about Silver City, but Coconuts ran one of their Buy 2, Get 1 Free sales on DVDs and I took a chance on it based purely on its cast. It's not as outright comical as I had hoped, or as comical as its trailer suggests. Its humor, instead, lies in an appreciation for satire. Despite my liberal politics, I have to concede this is actually where the film falters. Its Bush era jabs are too clumsy, preaching to the choir. These things didn't faze me much when I saw it in early 2009.

Re-watching the movie now, nearly a decade after its release, conjures a certain kind of you-had-to-be-there nostalgia. It's of the moment so much that I wonder how it would fare to a viewer who doesn't have a keen recollection of that contextual zeitgeist. In some ways, Silver City is actually kind of embarrassing to watch as an example of the kind of mockery conservatives perhaps rightly point to as the product of liberal Hollywood targeting them.

Where the film succeeds, though, is in its mystery through story. Danny O'Brien (Danny Huston) is a fairly strong explorer, leading us to and through the various plot threads. People open up to him much too readily, particularly about such sensitive matters, but with so much ground to cover it would require being a TV mini-series to have Danny get past being stonewalled by everyone.

This is investigation Law & Order-style, where everyone always knows exactly what's being talked about and the receipt from that dinner even last April is in the top drawer of the desk conveniently enough in the room where everyone is talking. Writer/Director John Sayles has so many balls in the air that it's best to just keep things moving along, which he does nicely.

The big surprise, really, is how well Sayles manages to develop several characters by unraveling this yarn. It works because every relationship has its own dynamics, and we see so many different relationships that we're able to piece together several aspects of different people. I don't think that Richard Dreyfuss and Kris Kristofferson ever share a single frame, but we glean what the relationship between their characters must be. I encountered a similar phenomenon with Sayles's much stronger 1996 film, Lone Star.

Any movie with Maria Bello and/or Chris Cooper is worth seeing at least once, but I think twice (plus an intervening viewing with the commentary track by Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi) seems to be my threshold for being done with Silver City.

Silver City Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#422/1597)

Silver City > Igor --> #422
Silver City < Barbershop --> #422
Silver City > Overboard --> #422
Silver City < Despicable Me --> #500
Silver City > Paperman --> #500
Silver City > Moonraker --> #500
Silver City < Stepmom --> #513
Silver City < Paul --> #518
Silver City < Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me --> #521
Silver City < The Lost World: Jurassic Park --> #523
Silver City < The Sound of Music --> #524

Silver City was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #524/1597