|Rafael and his son Frankie|
How brave are you?
As Rafael, Johnny Depp plays a poor, unemployed, alcoholic Native American who is desperate to provide for his wife and two young children. He wants to get them out of their trailer life in Morgantown, a village set among refuse, but having just served 3 years in prison for robbery and assault hasn't helped in his search for a legitimate job in town. He receives word of a different way out: He hears that a man named McCarthy (Marlon Brando) will pay $50,000 for his life. "Watching a painful death can be a great inspiration to those who are not dying, so that they can see how brave we can be when it's time to go," McCarthy says. "It the final measure of bravery to stand up to death." Yeah, he's crazy. But Rafael makes a deal with him. Then, with one week left to live, he strives to do right by his family and regain their respect before he goes.
Johnny takes it to heart.
Based on the novel by Gregory McDonald, Johnny has always been fascinated with this idea. So much so that, aside from starring in The Brave, he co-wrote the screenplay (with writer Paul McCudden and older brother/author D.P. Depp) and directed the film. Johnny later described some unanticipated complications: "As a director, you have to be in complete control of the set and surroundings. As an actor, you have to be--in a sense--out of control and unaware of what's going on on the set and all those really fun production problems." He said that editing scenes in which his friends were doing such good work was a nightmare task.
I don't think it was Johnny's idea to present The Brave for competition at the Cannes Film Festival, but he felt rushed to finish when it was selected. People were visibly moved by the film as the exited the theater at its premiere there, so Johnny was shocked that some critics panned it in the next morning's papers.
I'll take it!
I don't know what the critics said about The Brave because I don't often read reviews, especially bad ones. But I side with the moved crowd. When I first saw The Brave, it made me cry too.
A visiting friend looked through my Johnny DVD Collection once and asked me about The Brave. "It's for hardcore fans only," I said without hesitation. "It's depressing." I didn't warn her because it's a bad movie: It's just not for the masses, and I don't think it was ever meant to be.
|Marlon is mental.|
Yes, the story is bleak, but you have to commend Johnny for even tackling this difficult subject, investing his own money into the project to get it made, and exposing so much of himself in every aspect of the film. Overall, there are some really great moments, and there are some not-so-great moments. It's an earnest effort that I love because its Very Johnny. "I really approached the film as if it were a white big piece of paper, and I was just going to draw a picture on it," Johnny said. "And whether the picture was good or bad, whatever people thought of it, what they could never take away was that it was my picture."
The Kitties are pretty brave....
With such a dark subject, it was hard to choose what to draw for this month's tribute. But it occurred to me that the most powerful takeaway from this movie is realizing that situations like this actually exist.
In the opening sequence, backed by Iggy Pop's haunting score, the camera slowly pans over mountains of trash--and a few random scavenger hunters rummaging through it--until it reaches a trailer tucked in a small clearing. It's someone's home. Someone lives there--surrounded by garbage. You can feel the desperation from the start. And, it pretty much goes downhill from there.
There's fear. There's loathing. It's Vegas.
(Note: Except for my drawing, all images © Acappella Pictures.)