|Olivia Wilde, lady of mystery with a vacant stare|
This past weekend I took my father to go see Cowboys and Aliens. We were both excited about it, figuring it would be a silly, weird film. A good waste of two hours on a rainy day.
Boy, were we wrong.
Cowboys and Aliens was oddly good. We walked out, grinning, repeating to each other "Wow! I'm pleasantly surprised! That was pretty awesome!". My father, raised on a diet of John Wayne films and spaghetti westerns, thought the cowboys part of the film was fantastic. "Without the aliens," he said, "it would have been a pitch-perfect western!". Add in aliens, and it became pretty good. It wasn't Citizen Kane, but it was a shockingly good film.
The best part of the film didn't involve shirtless James Bond or sinister aliens, though. The best part of the film was that there was no stupid and unnecessary love interest!
Let me repeat that: no stupid or unnecessary love interest! Just lots of cowboys and lots of aliens!
I was totally sold on the idea of Cowboys and Aliens when I first heard about it. Cowboys AND Aliens, you say? Sign me up! The only thing that made me slightly concerned was the inclusion of Olivia Wilde into the cast. Right away I pegged her as the Love Interest, the bone thrown to women because Hollywood thinks we need romance in something or else we won't go see it. I firmly believe the Love Interest plot, awkwardly shoved into most movies, can be the downfall of many films. Did Natalie Portman running around, wide-eyed and confused, add anything to the story in the Thor movie, for example?
I really hate movies that break from the action to show the hero of the story trying to get with the pretty young thing conveniently put there for him by the writers. Even worse are the incredibly cringe worthy sex scenes (see, for example, The Watchmen movie. Egads...). I am totally fine with movies not cramming in a love interest. I honestly do not care if the hero gets the girl sometimes. There is a time and a place for a love interest or a love scene. I really don't want Batman interrupted from beating the crap out of the Joker because of Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Cowboys and Aliens was a breath of fresh air. Olivia Wilde, who I was 100% convinced was going to be shoehorned into the plot so Daniel Craig could kiss someone, turned out to be an interesting character and wasn't pandered to the audience as a love interest. She and Craig share a moment or two, he rescues her life and at one point she uses a touch of feminine wiles to get him to do what she wants, but she never becomes his obsession. She's her own character, with her own goals and her own shady and mystery past. For his part, Daniel Craig's character is just looking out for her because she is a member of his team. He would save anyone he rides with.
Even better, they don't have sex! No sex! No awkward rolling around on a bed in soft light, no clothes ripping or passionate kissing or groping or innuendo! It's so refreshing to have a tense scene broken by an alien on the loose and not random sexytimes.
I really enjoyed Cowboys and Aliens and I think it's a better film for not reducing Wilde's character to a token love interest. I got to focus on the awesome western and the creepy aliens and I was never once pulled out of the action because suddenly Daniel Craig's character decided to get all starry-eyed over her. In not being devalued as a love interest, Wilde's character got to actually be interesting. She wasn't there just to be on Daniel Craig's arm, she had a purpose and history that went beyond him.
While I'm still not sold on her acting (she likes to stare off into space, eyes all bright and supposedly meaningful), I admit I ended up liking her character in Cowboys and Aliens. She played well against Craig and Harrison Ford. She fit into the merry band of cowboys. There are a lot of reasons why I loved this movie and Wilde being her own woman and not the Love Interest was chief among them.
Cowboys and Aliens is playing in theaters now.