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MOVIE REVIEW: Meek’s Cutoff

A boring trip through the desert

Meek's Cutoff

Meek's Cutoff

  • Meek's Cutoff
  • Paul Dano as Thomas Gately in "Meek's Cutoff."
  • Michelle Williams as Emily Tetherow in "Meek's Cutoff."
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Director Kelly Reichardt and writer Jon Raymond bored folks to tears with Wendy and Lucy – a movie with San Diegan Michelle Williams and a dog that came out a few years ago. This film has that same trifecta of “talent.”

It’s the mid-1800s on the Oregon Trail, and three families hired a mountain man to guide them through mountains (I’ve stopped hiring mountain men since seeing Deliverance). Stephen Meek is that guide, and we quickly realize he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Paths are unmarked, and there aren’t cell phones or GPS to help them along. Not even a Thomas Brothers Guide like we had in the old days of the late 1900s.

When a Native American wanders upon them, he’s captured. Many in the family start believing him when he claims to know the way to water. Meeks wants him shot dead. After three weeks of thirst and hunger – and probably looking at the horses the way the Donner party exchanged glances at each other – it seems like a safe bet to trust the Indian. That premise sounds interesting. And I like the cast, which includes Paul Dano (The young preacher in There Will Be Blood), Will Patton, and a bearded Bruce Greenwood as Meek.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised in more recent years, with the amount of good westerns. I liked Appaloosa and 3:10 to Yuma; this stripped-down western brings new meaning to the word minimalism. There were a few beautifully shot scenes, but so what. If you give filmmakers cameras, I’m sure all could give us a beautiful sunset or desert landscapes.

The first 15 minutes went nowhere, and I thought about There Will Be Blood. I thought that opening went a little long (with Daniel Day-Lewis mining for silver), but the scene told us a lot about various aspects of his character. Other than the word “Lost” being carved into a post, we got nothing from this long intro.

I did find out a few things from watching this movie. Indians moccasins really stink (after all, they aren’t wearing socks). A squeaky wheel on a stagecoach can be really annoying. Bright scenes in the desert hurt your eyes when you come out of a five minute scene at night.

When I was on KOGO AM 600 discussing movies (you can listen every Friday afternoon at 2:35 p.m.) LaDona Harvey asked what smaller movies were opening. I told her two movies to recommend to people suffering from insomnia. One wasPoetry, and the other was Meek’sCutoff.

This movie gets a D.