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

Wednesday, Aug 21 2013

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.

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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