Masculinity in the Old West gets deconstructed, Zellner-style.

David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was 2015’s best film, so it’s not a huge surprise that their follow-up Damsel is one of the best of 2018 so far. It’s also both a more overt comedy, and a revisionist Western with echoes of Unforgiven and Dead Man. Samuel (Robert Pattinson) is a wealthy numbskull who travels into the Old West to rescue his sweetheart Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), who’s been kidnapped by the no-good Anton Cornell (Gabe Casdorph) and his brother Rufus (co-director Nathan Zellner). He also enlists the aid of the timid, not-really-clergy Parson Henry (other co-director David Zellner) to wed Samuel and Penelope upon her rescue.

To say more would ruin Damsel’s many surprises, though while it’s set in a very different milieu than KumikoDamsel’s world is as warm and green as Kumiko’s was cold and wintry — it’s also a dry and very funny culture-clash comedy that plays on many of the same themes, such as the expectations placed on women to get hitched at a certain age, whether they particularly want to or not. It’s also a joy to see Maps to the Stars’ Wasikowska and Pattinson reunited — and speaking of Pattinson, some people are still all “lol sparkly vampire” about him. Damsel offers further proof that those people are idiots.

Rated R. 
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

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