Lone Star (1996 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Sayles|
|Produced by||R. Paul Miller
|Written by||John Sayles|
|Music by||Mason Daring|
|Editing by||John Sayles|
|Studio||Castle Rock Entertainment|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics
|Running time||135 minutes|
Lone Star is a 1996 American mystery film written and directed by John Sayles and set in a small town in Texas. The ensemble cast features Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, and Elizabeth Peña and deals with a sheriff's investigation into the murder of one of his predecessors. The movie was filmed in Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Laredo,Texas.
Sheriff Sam Deeds has little heart for the politics or tough-on-crime policies that his job requires. Sam got the job because of his father, legendary Sheriff Buddy Deeds who is remembered as fair and just by the citizens of the county. However, Sam remembers Buddy as a distant parent who cheated on his mother with an unnamed mistress. Sam is particularly disapproving of efforts by Mayor Hollis Pogue, a former deputy of Buddy's, and business leader Mercedes Cruz, to rename the local courthouse in Buddy's honor. As a teenager Sam had been in love with Mercedes' daughter Pilar, but the courtship was opposed by both of their parents. After a chance meeting, Sam and the now-widowed Pilar slowly resume their courtship.
Colonel Delmore Payne has recently arrived in town to oversee the decommissioning of the local military base. Delmore is the son of Otis "Big O" Payne, a local nightclub owner and leading figure in the area's small African-American community. The two are estranged because of Otis' serial infidelity and abandonment of Delmore's mother when Delmore was a child. One day, some of Delmore's men discover a human skeleton on an old shooting range and, nearby, a Masonic ring and a bullet not used by the military. Sam becomes convinced that the skeleton is that of Charlie Wade, the brutal and corrupt sheriff who had preceded Buddy. One night years ago, Wade had simply disappeared, apparently absconding with payoff money which he had extorted from local businessmen.
As Sam investigates the events leading up to Wade's apparent murder he learns how the former Sheriff terrorized the local Mexican community, including murdering Mercedes Cruz' husband Eladio, whom he caught smuggling illegal immigrants. Wade also extorted protection money from local businesses, including the bar where Otis Payne worked. Sam also learns that Buddy, while popular with the residents of the county, was corrupt in his own way. Buddy used political patronage to help enrich his friends and allies. Eventually, Sam comes to believe that Buddy murdered Charlie Wade after a confrontation at the bar where Otis worked. After he confronts Otis and Hollis with his suspicions, the two reveal the truth. Wade had shown up at the bar intending to kill Otis, who had talked back to him earlier. Buddy did confront Wade, but it was Hollis who shot and killed him. Otis, Hollis and Buddy had buried the body and Buddy had given Wade's payoff money to his mistress, Mercedes Cruz, who used it to start her business. Sam declines to press charges against Hollis, reasoning that Buddy's reputation can handle the tarnish of being associated with Wade's disappearance. Returning to Pilar, he explains that her purported father, Eladio Cruz, had died more than nine months before she was born, and that he believes Buddy is her real father. The two decide to continue their romantic relationship despite the new revelation.
The film received highly positive reviews with Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 35 out of 38 reviews were positive for a score of 92% and a certification of "fresh." Two years after release, Jack Mathews of the Los Angeles Times declared it "critically acclaimed and darn near commercial." In retrospect from 2004, William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said that the film was "widely regarded as Sayles' masterpiece," declaring that it had "captured the zeitgeist of the '90s as successfully as "Chinatown" did the '70s."
Writing at the time of release, Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, "This long, spare, contemplatively paced film, scored with a wide range of musical styles and given a sun-baked clarity by Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography, is loaded with brief, meaningful encounters... And it features a great deal of fine, thoughtful acting, which can always be counted on in a film by Mr. Sayles." "All the film's characters are flesh and blood," Maslin added, pointing particularly to the portrayals by Kristofferson, Canada, James, Morton and Colon. Film critics Dennis West and Joan M. West of Cineaste praised the psychological aspects of the film, writing, "Lone Star strikingly depicts the personal psychological boundaries that confront many citizens of Frontera as a result of living in such close proximity to the border." Ann Hornaday for the Austin American-Statesman declared it "a work of awesome sweep and acute perception," judging it "the most accomplished film of [Sayles'] 17-year career."
However, not all contemporary critics were completely positive. While The Washington Post writer Hal Hinson characterized it as "a carefully crafted, unapologetically literary accomplishment," he said that Sayles' "directing style hasn't grown much beyond that of a first-year film student," declaring the director was "stagnant."
- Lone Star Film & Television Awards: Best Actor, Chris Cooper; Best Director, John Sayles; Best Film; Best Screenplay, John Sayles; Best Supporting Actor, Ron Canada; Best Supporting Actress, Frances McDormand; 1996.
- Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics; Grand Prix
- Independent Spirit Awards: Independent Spirit Award; Best Supporting Female, Elizabeth Peña ; 1997.
- Bravo Awards: NCLR Bravo Award Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film, Elizabeth Peña; Special Achievement Award Outstanding Feature Film; 1997.
- Satellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award; Best Motion Picture Screenplay - Original, John Sayles; 1997.
- Society of Texas Film Critics Awards: Best Director, John Sayles; Best Screenplay, John Sayles.
- Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards: SEFCA Award; Best Director, John Sayles; 1997.
- Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, John Sayles; 1997.
- Bravo Awards: NCLR Bravo Award; Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film, Tony Plana; 1996.
- British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award; Best Screenplay - Original, John Sayles; 1997.
- Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards: BFCA Award Best Picture; 1997.
- Casting Society of America: Artios; Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama, Avy Kaufman; 1997.
- Chlotrudis Award: Chlotrudis Award, Best Actor, Chris Cooper; 1997.
- Golden Globes: Golden Globe; Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, John Sayles; 1997.
- Independent Spirit Awards: Independent Spirit Award; Best Feature, R. Paul Miller and Maggie Renzil; Best Male Lead, Chris Cooper; Best Screenplay, John Sayles; 1997.
- Satellite Awards: Golden Satellite Award; Best Motion Picture - Drama, R. Paul Miller and Maggie Renzi; 1997.
- Writers Guild of America: WGA Award (Screen); Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, John Sayles; 1997.
- Gerry Molyneaux, "John Sayles, Renaissance Books, 2000 p 232
- Lone Star at the Internet Movie Database.
- Mathews, Jack (March 13, 1998). "Movie Review; Sayles Again Goes His Own Way With Effective 'Guns'". Los Angeles Times. p. F14. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- Arnold, William (September 16, 2004). "John Sayles' timely political lampoon aims squarely at George W. Bush". Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- Maslin, Janet. The New York Times, film review, "Sleepy Texas Town With an Epic Story", June 21, 1996. Last accessed: February 22, 2008.
- West, Dennis and Joan M. West. Cineaste (magazine) v22, n3 (Summer, 1996):34 (3 pages). Last accessed: February 22, 2008.
- Hornaday, Ann (June 28, 1996). "`Lone Star' shines brightly". Austin American-Statesman. p. E1.
- "'Lone Star': Stagnant Sayles". The Washington Post. July 12, 1996. p. F6. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
- Lone Star at the Internet Movie Database
- Lone Star at AllMovie
- Lone Star at Rotten Tomatoes
- Lone Star essay at Bad Subjects magazine by Tomás Sandoval (discussed the historical aspects of film)
- Lone Star film review on YouTube by Siskel & Ebert
- Lone Star film trailer on YouTube