"Ain’t Them Bodies Saints": Lovely People on a Crime Spree

A leading contender for overrated indie of the year, writer-director David Lowery's preciously '70s-set crime romance is a beautiful bore. The pretentious title should be your tip-off; for all its pseudo-poetic twang, Ain't Them Bodies Saints doesn't really mean much. The affectedly spare story goes through some familiar motions: outlaw lovers in a shootout with Texas cops, separated by a mournful incarceration, potentially reunited by a nervy jailbreak. Yearning is solemnly suggested, if unsubstantiated. Mostly it's a flattering array of poses for the sinewy young stars, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, whose august company we're urged to view as a great privilege. Not that venerating its leads should count against a film, but in this case, there's a passive-aggressively bitchy subtext: "Hey, this could have been cheesier, you know; be thankful it's not Ben Affleck and Kate Mara." So, yes, the credentials are fine, extending to Ben Foster as a cop who (sort of) comes between the lovers, and including strong cinematography, slick cutting, and shrewd soundtracking — all in service of many monotonous mood cues. Meanwhile, as if a slave to fashionable restraint, Lowery truncates his characters' feelings to a fault. The leads don't say much, except when making poetic speeches. "I used to be the devil, and now I'm just a man," Affleck says in one of his; "I thought I would die from all that love," Mara says in one of hers; it's as if they're trying to talk us into what the movie hasn't otherwise managed to make us feel. Like that umpteenth old-timey hipster boutique full of artisanal "dry goods," this movie comes fully stocked with a bunch of cool stuff we don't really need.

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Jonathan, after merely seeing the trailers several times, my feelings reflect what you wrote. I am glad you commit to print the fact that you believe this movie is an overrated indie. I too was getting tired of the critical acclaim heaped upon this movie. The trailers show it, at least for me, to be every bit as precious, pretentious, and unnecessary as you've written. I'm glad you acknowledged the good that you saw in it, but noted that it was in service of nothing in particular. I'm tired of tales like these bamboozling critics and audiences.


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