Real Writers. Real Opinions. No Boundaries.

Movie Review: ‘Damsel’ is a Gonzo Western With an Important Message on Its Mind

CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Joseph Billingiere, Robert Forster

Directors: David Zellner and Nathan Zellner

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for Sharpshooting Violence and Occasional Graphic Nudity, Often Mixed Together

Release Date: June 22, 2018 (Limited)

I would call Damsel a revisionist Western, except that the Western genre is not really popular enough anymore to really need revising. Nevertheless, co-directing brothers David and Nathan Zellner have plenty of revising on their minds, though their ideas do not apply exclusively to frontier America. Ultimately, I don’t how else to classify it, so let’s stick with “revisionist Western” and maybe throw in a “wacky” and “iconoclastic” in there for good measure.

Robert Pattinson strolls merrily into town as Samuel Alabaster, a man out of place and out of time. His stomach does not agree with the saloon he walks into (or any saloon really), his spirit is more poetic than cowboy, and his vocabulary is a bit too 21st Century, though it does not really fit in any era. Actually, none of the characters particularly speak they are from any recognizable time in American history. The Zellners have crafted a fantasy world that might be too bizarre for some audiences, but it is just delightful to my tastes, and Pattinson subsumes himself into this environment unforgettably.

There is one way that Samuel fits into the Wild West mold, and that is his instinct to rescue the damsel in distress. His beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) has been kidnapped, and he is on his way to free her and make her his wife. But eventually it becomes clear that Samuel may not have the most trustworthy of perspectives and that Damsel is actually an indictment of a certain strain of toxic, entitled masculinity that is insidious in today’s society. It makes me wonder if willful misinterpretation regarding attempted romantic coercion was just as much of a problem hundreds of years ago as it is today. It certainly seems possible, as miscommunication has been causing conflicts throughout human history. Those struggles are not always as strange as the one portrayed in Damsel, but the stranger the example, the more memorable the movie.

Damsel is Recommended If You Like: Irreverent Westerns like Django Unchained, but with a defiantly feminist twist

Grade: 4 out of 5 Outhouse Explosions

You might also like