This movie is a western and they picked the most non-western leads I’ve ever seen. One lead is Australian, the other is British. This’ll go well.
The story looks like it’s about a man who is set on proposing to a woman he fell in love with by… I guess, presenting her with a miniature horse. But I guess she doesn’t really love him the way he loves her? Honestly, the trailer is so choppy that I don’t think I have a proper grasp of the plot.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Robert Pattinson (GOOD TIME , and upcoming films HIGH LIFE  and THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME ), Mia Wasikowska (ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS , and upcoming films BERGMAN ISLAND  and JUDY AND PUNCH ), brothers David (the upcoming THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE ) and Nathan Zellner (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of), who are also the co-writers and co-directors, and Robert Forster (THE CASE FOR CHRIST , LONDON HAS FALLEN , and upcoming films THE BIG TAKE  and BIGGER ).
Now for the crew. This movie has no score, so there’s no credited composer. The cinematographer is Adam Stone, known for LOVING (2016). Finally, the editor is Melba Robichaux (sorry, I have no idea if Melba is a male or female name), making his/her feature film debut.
Overall, early ratings are painting this to be a pretty bad movie, but I’ve liked movies that the general masses haven’t before. So who knows? Personally, I don’t know if I’ll like it. Plain and simple.
This is my honest opinion of: DAMSEL
Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) is a man in love and has set his sights on offering his bride-to-be Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) a miniature horse named Butterscotch. Upon his return back to Penelope, he has enlisted the unofficial Parson Henry (David Zellner) to officiate his wedding. However, upon their travels, Samuel encounters a strange man and reveals him to be Rufus (Nathan Zellner), brother of a dastardly evil man named Anton (Gabe Gasdorph) who has kidnapped Penelope.
You know how A WRINKLE IN TIME (2018) was the messiest, most incompetently made movie of the year? Yeah, well, take that mess and incompetence and make a western. That’s this movie.
So much of this movie is not explained, and even when something is explained, it’s made even more confusing.
The movie already opens on two scenes that are utterly pointless and don’t make any sense. The first is an old preacher (Robert Forster) who is fed up with preaching the good Lord’s name to ears who don’t want to hear it and decides to venture out into the wilderness with nothing but his underwear to die, giving his entire preacher outfit to Henry, who seeking a fresh start from a troubled past.
Henry is not the main character of the movie.
Next is the opening titles with a hootenanny going on, showing Samuel and Penelope dancing together. That may not seem like anything now, but I’ll explain why this pointless later.
By the way, neither Samuel nor Penelope are the main characters.
From this point on, it’s a long, slow, trudge through a needless two hour flick. It’s basically just Samuel traveling with Henry, and Samuel talking about his love for Penelope. It’s as boring as it sounds. It’s not like he talks about her in any meaningful way that gives us any sight on who she is and what makes her so great. To boot, we never even learn about what Samuel is like, other than he’s obnoxiously in love with this woman and that’s not interesting. Someone could easily tell you that this movie is supposed to be a comedy, but I have to seriously ask where the comedy is? I can probably point to what the movie thinks are jokes, but they’re not funny. There is no punchline that makes me laugh. Maybe the old preacher wandering out into the wilderness to die was cute and Penelope throwing a rock at another dude’s face got a chuckle out of me, but both of these moments last a minute long. This is a two hour film and with these two exceptions, the comedy falls flat. This wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing ever if the characters were any likable. Movies have done that before where the comedy may not be laugh-out-loud, but possess a certain level of charm that makes you smile at the unfunny jokes. This is certainly possible and never deters the quality of the story being told. However, this movie has nothing going for it in that department. Everyone is dull and or annoying, so when you have a minute of dudes admiring Adam’s apples, it’s not funny, it’s just awkward.
Hell, the movie takes almost half an hour just to get to the plot. It’s just showing off western stuff, seemingly to remind us that this is indeed a western. Samuel has doesn’t explain why he has Butterscotch, only that he has it. Neither he nor Samuel explain why Henry needs to travel with him. For a quarter of this movie’s runtime, nothing makes any God damned sense. And even when one set of questions are answered, a new batch is dumped on your lap. Samuel sees Rufus, they start shooting each other, resulting in a chase, causing Rufus to fall several feet to a rock bed, eventually leading Samuel back to Henry stating that Penelope has been kidnapped. I didn’t skip over any information, that’s exactly how these couple scenes play out. I didn’t skip over some conversation between Samuel and Rufus and how he reveals to Samuel that Penelope was kidnapped. These two characters don’t say a word to each other. This is just something that Samuel says and we the audience are left wondering, what the hell?
Basically, the movie is awful. It fails as a comedy because it’s not funny. As a result, it fails as a drama because there’s bad comedy interlaced with it, mucking the tone up something fierce. The acting is terrible, especially from Wasikowska, which may not be her fault considering how awful the direction is, it’s a serious dumpster fire.
At the end of the day, I know exactly what this movie is supposed to be, and in retrospect, it’s not a bad idea. It’s a movie that is supposed to be playing with stereotypes. The initial set-up is that Samuel is the reluctant hero, Henry is the side-kick, Penelope is the damsel in distress, and this Anton is supposed to be villain. However, here’s the series of revelations. Anton is Penelope’s husband, happily married, she hasn’t seen Samuel in two years, so it’s basically saying that Samuel was the villain all along and Penelope is the hero, and Henry is the damsel in distress. But all of this is utterly ruined. Logic is left festering in the outhouse.
With this information in mind, we can clearly tell that Samuel is a delusional creep who has the hots for a woman who doesn’t show affection in return. He murders Anton- actually, that was Henry, but even the movie never revisits this fact – and drama ensues. But now there’s problems and questions. When seeing her husband’s body on the ground, riddled with bullet holes, his dick hanging out, likely laying in his own piss, Wasikowska’s acting is so terrible that you’d think someone clogged her toilet, rather than murdered her husband. She barely cries, she barely reacts in an appropriate manner. Even when she’s facing down Samuel, she’s letting him finish his sentences, listening to what he has to say, instead of acting like any rational person by retaliating and maybe even killing back. She even has a rifle in hand, but never actually shoots him, despite every opportunity, even an invitation from him to do it.
There’s also the matter of those questions. When he claims that she gave him mixed signals, she says that she gave him no signals. While certainly mentally unstable people have taken choice words or phrases and spun them in their minds to fit a delusion, we aren’t shown that relationship between Samuel and Penelope. Which, for the record, makes the opening titles confusing. Was that how they met? Was that a fantasy of Samuel’s? That dance scene during the titles, even as I write this review nearly five hours later, are still a big ole question mark.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Which… it should. The movie is basically over by this point. Samuel did something awful, he dies, and Penelope makes a rather snappy decision to leave her home behind with Henry as her prisoner. Things are technically wrapped up nicely. But nope, this movie is only half over by this point and everything that comes after is literally just the movie making shit up as it went along.
Remember when I said Rufus fell onto a rock bed? He fell from a cliff that was likely three to four stories high. Rufus did not die in that fall. He makes a reappearance with nothing more than a bandage around his head. Upon meeting up with Penelope and Henry, he starts making the random accusations that she and Samuel were conspiring to kill Anton the entire time. There is no reason for these accusations. Rufus doesn’t say what she gets out of it, or anything, just that she did. Then he starts to force her to marry him at gunpoint… um… because… but then he gets shot by a random arrow (no one is wondering where it came from, by the way), tries to cop a feel, stumbles off and accidentally blows himself up with Henry’s dynamite vest that Penelope fashioned for him, and then a Native American shows up, revealed to be the guy who shot Rufus with the arrow.
Guys, it only keeps getting stupid. Nothing is ever satisfyingly resolved.
Sadly, I can see how this story could have worked if put in more competent hands. The idea presented can be pulled off and have been pulled off in other movies before. But this film fails on all accounts. Execution of ideas, no likable characters, no charm from the actors, pacing that is slower than molasses, a plot that makes no sense, and is utterly a boring outing. Movies like this give westerns a bad name. It’s honestly not the worst movie I’ve seen this year, but it’s pretty damn close what with how there is zero redeeming values. As a recommendation, I recommend that you avoid this like the plague. Save your money for… anything else. The only damsel in distress is anyone who buys a ticket for this schlock.
My honest rating for DAMSEL: 1/5
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