Urban Cowboy

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Urban Cowboy 5Urban Cowboy (1980)

Directed by James Bridges

Written by Aaron Latham, James Bridges

Starring: John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn

When Bud (Travolta) arrives in Pasadena, Texas he’s looking to make a life for himself. Soon he finds a complicated kind of love with Sissy (Winger). As their relationship grows they are forced to learn tough lessons about life.

Urban Cowboy 2This is a romance drama set in the contemporary Western world of Texas. The story was written by Aaron Latham (Perfect) and James Bridges (The Paper Chase). Bridges would also direct the film. The movie stars John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever), Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment), and Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs).

Urban Cowboy 3This is a story that follows all the rules of romantic dramas. While the setting is definitely unique, the process followed seems to miss out on opportunities to make more of it. The dialogue is simple and direct, which isn’t always a bad thing. For this film it worked to avoid too many wordy confessions or unnecessary monologues. With a set of simple characters, the writing keeps things realistic to their personalities. As I’ve stated already, this follows all the patterns set by similar films. Unfortunately that means that this is a predictable, although enjoyable, romp through a tumultuous new relationship. In many ways this could almost be seen as a Western version of Saturday Night Fever, which really becomes problematic when you’ve seen that much better film. Without taking any risk, the writers made a forgettable but enjoyable movie that might be better known for the music than the story.

Urban Cowboy 7The acting in this movie is good, but ultimately feels limited by the material. Travolta’s role is so similar to a number of his other films that it’s hard to buy into it all the way. He still does great work with the emotional highs and lows in the story. He also has great chemistry with Debra Winger. She’s also good on her own in this one. Like Travolta, the material didn’t give her a ton to work with. Still, there are moments where she elevates the writing and nice things happen. They’re joined by Scott Glenn who gives an excellent performance as the antagonist of the story. His role plays as slightly mysterious and leaves him a lot of room to build on that persona in the film. Overall, the acting is good despite the material they had to work with.

Urban Cowboy 1This film doesn’t offer much in terms of innovation from a production standpoint. The camera work is typical for the era, and everything is pretty straightforward. What the visuals do accomplish is to bring a small segment of society to life in big ways. The setting is given a lot of color and personality for the story to play out in. The bar is especially indicative of the world of the film, becoming almost a character in itself. These aspects bring the film something extra that keeps things interesting.

Urban Cowboy 6This isn’t a great movie, perhaps it’s not even a good movie. Still, for his third feature film John Travolta does some nice work. It’s a predictable movie, but fans of the stars might still enjoy this trip into the past. I give this one 2.9 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 132 Minutes

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