Eastwood is playing the law dog in early 60’s Americana, on the tail of two escaped convicts – including Kevin Costner. The two cons take a child hostage and hit the road with the law in pursuit.
This really is Costner’s movie. It’s tempting to talk mostly about Costner and his strong performance, but this is an Eastwood retrospective, so I will merely gloss over moments (but for the sake of honesty it has to be said he gets most of the credit).
Eastwood the actor is in supporting role. And whilst he walks through the motions, he is there primarily to feed us information, have a semi-comedic relationship with his cohorts and only deliver any true dramatic weight in a couple of scenes. But Laura Dern has the worst role in the film, that’s all engineered towards exposition or making a tired stance about the politics of the situation they are all currently in. So his best work here is as director – and to a point I guess composer! The music you hear being played on the record when Costner and the boy stay at the farm is Eastwood’s own composition. He may not have much of a singing voice these days (and did he ever?) but he knows his way around a quirky and odd little tune.
Eastwood is probably the one who suffers the most from being the most underwritten. He spends the first half providing us with slight comedy at the expense of Laura Dern’s sneer faced sidekick, and only really towards the end delivers the dramatic goods. First with his revelation about his past with Costner’s character via campfire chat– and perhaps best of all the quiet moment these two men have together at the end of the film. Costner is totally unaware of who this man is or the impact he had on his life. He even looks quite childlike and innocent in his asking if he knows the man. And when he asks Eastwood responds sombrely “not really,” Beautifully underplayed by Eastwood.
Eastwood gets to shine again after the fatal shot is taken by the sniper (without the go ahead). He returns to the group of law officials and upon recomposing himself lets rip with a hook that floors the sniper. (Eastwood really is one of the best stars in cinema history to deliver an almighty wallop that has an impact with the audience).
It’s great that Clint has worked together with some of the best actor/directors out there that love the western as much as he. HE did this with Costner, He did Space Cowboys with Tommy Lee Jones. All we need now is for them all to work together in that genre and we may just have it perfect.
A Perfect World has two of Hollywood’s biggest names at the time working together – and although Costner gets all the glory on screen, Eastwood gets all the glory off screen. The story is always compelling, often humorous and heartfelt as well. It’s a shame the film isn’t talked about more often.