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May 24, 2012

Lone Star

by Franz Patrick


Lone Star (1996)
★★★ / ★★★★

When a skeleton was discovered alongside a badge that belonged to former Sheriff Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson), a corrupt man who held Frontera in his vise grip, Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) led the investigation. Sam suspected the murderer was his late father, Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey), a legendary figure in town, because rumors went around that the night Charlie Wade disappeared, there was an altercation between Buddy and Charlie. Written and directed by John Sayles, I was fascinated with the film because the town was menudo of diversity when it came to ethnicity, culture, and intentions. Although there was racial tension among the African-Americans, Mexicans, and Anglos, there was a deep complexity among their relationships. The town was on the verge of critical change and Sam was torn in many directions. He was careful in trying to preserve that change, the present, but at the same time he was torn about his feelings toward a Hispanic teacher, and former childhood flame, named Pilar (Elizabeth Peña), the past. There was something about her that he felt he needed to get to know more on a personal or a romantic level. The passing of time and the distance he created between them didn’t seem to hinder their connection. Cooper injected his character with subtlety and grace. When he stared off into space and recollected the past, we looked with him and struggled to make sense of the literal skeletons that surfaced. For some reason, he was convinced that his father’s name wasn’t as clean as the residents claimed. After all, memories change and the mind tends to repress the negative when word-of-mouth focused on the positive and optimism. When Sam interviewed men who knew his father back in the day, such as the cop (Clifton James) and the pub owner (Ron Canada), there was a mutual respect between the current sheriff and the men who were used to living in simpler times. The subplots were equally fascinating. There was Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), Pilar’s mother and a cafe owner, who looked down on her own people. She was quick to call the Border Patrol when she herself got into the country illegally. We often heard her telling her workers, “Speak English! This is America.” It was painful to watch because it was almost as if she was embarrassed of her roots. However, I found myself being able to relate to her since that self-hatred was a familiar feeling. As a pre-teen immigrant, turning my back on my ethnicity seemed like the only solution at the time in order to feel like I belonged. The Ms. Cruz character was often played for laughs but I understood her need to assimilate. Lastly, there was an excellent scene between a soldier (Chandra Wilson) and a colonel (Joe Morton). The former lacked ambition, seeing her role in the military as someone who simply followed orders, while the latter thought about long-term goals and defying the odds. It was interesting when the two shared the same room because, in a way, it also reflected the mindsets of the past and present. Although sometimes confusing because of the number of characters it juggled, I found “Lone Star” beautiful because it managed to capture the lyricism of it meant to be in a diverse community on the verge of change. It treated us like the smart people we are and it didn’t compromise for the sake of easy answers.

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