“Nothing is to be preferred before justice.” - Socrates
We watched a very good film a couple of days ago, about which we had heard nothing, but it was another of these great discoveries in the bargain bin of our video store. It was the 1993 movie “Flesh and Bone”, written and directed by Steve Kloves, and starring Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, James Caan and Gwyneth Paltrow. The film was first rate in all aspects and I am quite at a loss to explain the “average” rating that it has received in the IMDB “popularity meter” – however, one should not be surprised, given the drivel that attracts high ratings (e.g. “Inception”!).
The plot revolves around Arlis (Dennis Quaid) who is a vending machine owner who roams from small town to small town in West Texas. Arlis is haunted by horrific memories from his childhood, and he fails to connect emotionally with the women he meets. He has a “woman in every town” having these flings with married women where there are no strings attached. One day Arlis meets Kay (Meg Ryan), who is running away from an abusive and gambler husband. Kay begins travel with Arlis on his circuit and they fall in love. Arlis’ evil father (James Caan) comes back into the life of his son and Arlis must once again deal with the heavy burden of the ties that bind them. Complicating matters is the young drifter and petty thief Ginnie (Gwynneth Paltrow) that Arlis’ father has picked up. The film develops slowly and irrevocably into a dramatic dénouement, where each person must confront the ghosts of the pasts, especially so Arlis…
“Flesh and Bone” is possibly one of the 1990s most neglected classic films. It is subtle, understated, powerful and extremely well made and acted. The story is tight and engaging, the characters believable and tragic and the themes sombre. All actors in the leading quartet give sterling performances, with Quaid perhaps (who gives his character an understated tragic desperation that becomes quite devastating by the end) deserving the line honours. Quaid never allows Arlis to become pathetic, which perhaps would have been easily done by a lesser actor. Caan is great as always, and Ryan gives a magnificent performance, while Paltrow impresses, playing a difficult role without any of the sugary sweetness that was the ingredient of most of her roles that followed.
There is precious little about this film that isn’t of high quality. It has a good script, skillful and sensitive directing, stark cinematography that suits the plot to a tee, excellent performances, and haunting soundtrack. It is an excellent piece of film making and strorytelling. We highly recommend this movie as it is original, engaging, moving and exceedingly well-made. If you haven't seen it, it is well worth your while to hunt it down and watch it!