Cormac McCarthy’s novel and Billy Bob Thornton’s movie go hand in hand. The passing of the Old West as a way of life is presented in both. John Grady Cole comes from a long line of Texas ranchers. The two start with the funeral of John Grady’s grandfather, after which his mother decides to sell the ranch and move on to pursue her acting career. With the ranch up for sale, John Grady feels that there is nothing left for him in Texas and he and Rawlins head out in search of a way of life in Mexico. The interpretation of the novel into the movie is a simplistic depiction.
Thornton follows the novel so closely that he leaves out important incidents. A few of the incidents left out actually allow the reader to visualize from scene to scene. The movie introduces one situation and abruptly jumps to another. This leaves the viewer wondering what happened in between the two and how much of importance it was. Jumping from incident to incident in a novel is ok, because the middle is left to the imagination of the reader. However, in a movie it is important that as little as possible be eliminated so that the viewer can get the full picture.
The viewer in some cases does not have the chance to get involved emotionally, before a sudden change is made. The actors used by Thornton helps with the characterization in implementing the novel into the movie. John Grady Cole is played by Matt Damon. Lucas Black plays Jimmy Blevins. Lacey Rawlins is played by Henry Thomas. Penelope Cruz plays Alejandra. Although the actors are not developed as much as they are in the novel, the viewer is still able to make out their part in the movie.
The dialect used by the actors makes the story more convincing, though sometimes it is vague. The southern drawl, heard by most cowboys, can be heard from Damon, Black, and Thomas. Also, the Mexican accent can be heard through the brief vocal parts that Alejandra has. The visuals and the music help in the implementation of the novel into the Thornton movie. The mountains, rivers, and the sky all are depicted in the same way as the novel. The music used helps the viewer get the tone of the various scenes.
There may be love music playing, and then out of the blue the sounds of horses trotting may come on. The two, however go hand in hand in making the movie. Without these two, the movie would have been slower and harder to get into. The correlation of the two can be made while viewing this movie. The use of slow motion also helps the viewer feel the story. Slow motion is used in the breaking of the horses and the execution of Blevins. The importance of these two scenes would not be fully portrayed without the slow motion.
It is important that the two be overly dramatized. The relationship between John Grady and Alejandra was greatly minimized. There was an instantaneous love affair between the two that can not be picked up on through their limited conversation. The love affair can be seen when the two see each other while Alejandra is riding her horse in. The times that she snuck into his room were shown very briefly, leaving the viewer to think that it was something that the two were doing in their adolescent stage. The fact is the two were in deeply in love.
If a viewer had not read the novel before viewing the movie it would be hard for them to pick up on the fact that John Grady was willing to do whatever to have Alejandra. This in itself posed a problem with Alejandra’s aunt, Alfonsa. Alfonsa was concerned with how well off Alejandra would be when married. It was extremely important that the “certain extravagance in the female blood of this family (McCarthy,240),” be continued and not cut off for any reason. Due to this, the love of affair between the two had to be ended.
The dream of owning a ranch of his own, with Alejandra as his wife was shattered after the two met for the last time and he asked her to be his wife. Alejandra did not accept the offer, saying that the affair was the reason her father stopped loving her. The movie and the novel did not end on the same note. Thornton ends the movie with John Grady returning to Texas and stopping by Rawlins to return his horse. He made it a point to return home with the horses that he left on his adventure with. After the two hold a brief conversation, John Grady rides off into the sunset.
The novel however, ends the same way it started, with a funeral. John Grady attends the funeral for Abuela, the last surviving connection to the way life originally was on that ranch. After the funeral, John Grady sets off again into the sunset. I really enjoyed the movie after having read the novel. The novel was very hard to get into in the beginning. However, after having read it, I was able to follow the movie more closely. I think that a great masterpiece can be made if Thornton and McCarthy collaborate to make sure that the most important aspects of the book are displayed.