Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

1. Pete’s lucid and timely post below amounts to this: The RNC is composed of clueless losers and Rand Paul and Chris Christie, whatever you might think of their policies, are real men who know what they’re doing. I understand exactly what Christie is doing to position himself, although I don’t like some of it. Same with Paul the younger, although I don’t like much of it. So I’m not saying that Christie is our savior rising from the Jersey streets. I’m just saying he is rising.

2. So imagine a movie with four of our most manly and talented actors—Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt, and Billy Bob Thornton. Each is at the top of his signature “game,” because the director/writer, Thornton, understands who each of them is about as a CHARACTER. Wouldn’t this be the best American movie EVER? Well, that is JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR, which turns out not to be the best American movie ever. BUT it is really, really good, despite being contrived in places. It’s in the part of ON DEMAND that allows you for only (I say ironically) $9.99 to view a movie before it gets to the theatres. That’s an honor usually reserved for filmic failures or very obscure artsy-fartsy efforts. In this case, it seems to be the place for a perceived failure.

3. The ON DEMAND people confirmed the rumor I had heard. JMC just didn’t work out. I resolved to see it anyway in loyalty to the people of Cedartown Georgia (15 miles from where I’m sitting), who allowed their downtown to be transformed (boy, it needed it) to make the movie. When it was being made (with all those magnetic stars around), there was hope all around it would be a blockbuster.

4. But the movie has so much to say about friendship, family, honor, love, being a warrior, being a father, and wounded souls that the triumph of proudly isolated characters becoming relational (in love in the present) overwhelms anything you might be wondering about the plausibility of the plot and circumstances. It’s not exactly a Stoic movie, because the men are too wounded to be take pleasure in being generous and magnanimous and all that. They have trouble, as they say, “ruling themselves,” and so they’re unable to be consistently responsible for others. But “the good life” that characterizes the South at its best is there. A better title would have been “the last gentlemen.” But, in true Texarkansan fashion, the film ends with the suggestion that there are actually more gentlemen to come.

5. The character played by Duvall is especially fascinating for those who are obsessed with “being philosophic.” He spends all of his time figuring things out, and none of it accepting or being grateful. But he gradually figures out why he’s been obsessed, and he becomes more grateful for—while remaining ironic about—what he has. The film takes place in rural ALABAMA, despite having been filmed in various places in Georgia. But BILLY BOB brings his ARKANSAN sensibility to bear throughout. And of course DUVALL is THE MAN among men when it comes to TEXARKANSAN STUDIES.

Dear Reader,

Your charitable support for First Things is urgently needed before July 1.

First Things is a proudly reader-supported enterprise. The gifts of readers like you— often of $50, $100, or $250—make articles like the one you just read possible.

This Spring Campaign—one of our two annual reader giving drives—comes at a pivotal season for America and the church. With your support, many more people will turn to First Things for thoughtful religious perspectives on pressing issues of politics, culture, and public life.

All thanks to you. Will you answer the call?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles