Texasville (1990)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA, 1990. , . Screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich, based on the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by Peter Bogdanovich, . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

It’s been twenty years since the release of The Last Picture Show and about a decade more since the events of that film took place; the town of Anarene is still dusty and docile, its denizens so bored and hopeless that they go around breaking each other’s hearts just as a way to break up the monotony of their quiet lives. Former high school jock Duane Jackson () is now the owner of an oil company that has fallen into debt with crises in the Middle East playing havoc with the price of his raw materials. He’s married to Karla () and they have a heap of kids, but the couple is out of sync with each other, he plays around with plenty other women and her reaction is less sorrow about betrayal and more concern about whether it’s worth her trying to get things back on track (especially since she’s the only one trying).

Duane’s son Billy () is a handsome young terror who is always causing trouble with the community’s bored and lonely married ladies, while his old friend Sonny Crawford () is now the town’s mayor and owns a few local businesses, but spends most of his time in the ruins of the old picture house, believing he can see films projected on the sky; this decreasing connection with reality is causing a great deal of worry among his friends, particularly with Ruth Popper (), with whom he once had a touching affair and who is now working as Duane’s secretary.

Back into town sweeps former prom queen Jacy Farrow (), who hasn’t seen Duane since they graduated and barely recognizes him when they are reunited. Her own life having fallen into darkness thanks to a personal tragedy, Jacy returns with all her fiery quirkiness still intact but with the added confidence of age, immediately befriending Karla and Billy and becoming a fixture in the family’s goings-on. The first film established her as a fearless truth teller who lays bare the pretensions of respectability and bravado that the other townsfolk cling to, and into this volatile situation she once again brings her boat-rocking breath of fresh air personality.

Returning to this material turned out not to be the resurrection for director Peter Bogdanovich’s career that it was hoped it would be, the film was dead on arrival at the box office and there wasn’t enough critical praise to overcome audience indifference (according to sources, a great deal of this had to do with the fact that The Last Picture Show was one of the few hits of the seventies that had yet to find its way to a VHS release, which would have revived interest in a sequel).

Taken from Larry McMurtry’s 1987 follow-up to his original novel, it doesn’t have the throbbing pulse of shame and loneliness that drove the original film, but that’s actually appropriate; the characters being thirty years older means that they are now grappling with failure and regret and do so with a great deal of sensitivity and intelligence, putting the past to rest and mending the burned bridges of troubled relationships. This doesn’t make for searing drama but it does make for a lovely and satisfying film that shows its entire cast (many of whom have returned from the original) at their finest: Shepherd, at the time just coming off the success of Moonlighting, gives one of her finest film performances, the character’s capricious actions never become trite contrivances, and her chemistry with Bridges is still fiery after such a long absence between them.

The real star of the show, however, is Potts, who filmed her scenes between jaunts back to Los Angeles to keep up with her Designing Women schedule, and the strain never shows. Orating smoothly delivered rants at her underperforming husband and spoiled children, Potts gives blood and guts to a fantasy of indomitable southern womanhood, snapping out a quick retort to every bit of hurt that comes her way, and refusing to let anyone see her pain. Her Karla is funny, mean and totally endearing, and you find yourself spending most of the film just waiting for her to come back and give out some more.

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