Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Hatfields & McCoys (2012) ***

TV-14, 290 min.
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Writers: Bill Kirby, Ted Mann, Ronald Parker
Starring: Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Matt Barr, Tom Berenger, Powers Booth, Andrew Howard, Jena Malone, Sarah Parish, Lindsay Pulsipher, Ronan Vibert, Joe Absolom, Joel Fisher, Boyd Holbrook, Tom McKay, Sam Reid, Mare Winningham

The History Channel’s dramatization of the conflict between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky, whose feud spanned across the boarder of those states and over the course of three decades, makes me think of the misconception so often in war that each side of a conflict believes that God is on their side. In this particular conflict, the head of the McCoy family, Ronald McCoy, certainly believed that his was the righteous side of the conflict, while Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield was wise enough to observe that God couldn’t be on both sides. Since he felt he was in the right, he didn’t think God had much to do with it.  Perhaps that’s why after the conflict Anse found God and seemed to live a happier life while Ronald wallowed in his fate.

The two heads of their families began as friends, fighting along side each other on the Confederate side of the Civil War. However, when Anse chose desertion over finishing a losing war in a Yankee prison, their friendship was over and their families would suffer the consequences. The film follows the events in their families’ lives from the war up until Randolph McCoy’s death long after their conflict had ended. McCoy’s loses were the greater of the two, but both sides suffered petty heartbreak because of their silly grudge.

Directed by Kevin Reynolds, long time collaborator with star Kevin Costner, the five-hour long mini-series kicked off the History Channel’s newfound success with the dramatic mini-series format. Costner plays Anse, while Bill Paxton portrays Ronald McCoy. Both make for great anchors for each family. The younger generations of each family seem stubborn and somewhat clueless of the ramifications of their actions. Costner carries the weight of the story, while Paxton carries the drama of it.

There were points when I felt the production chose to repeat itself when it could’ve explored alternate aspects of the conflict. Some of these were frustrating. The women really get the short end here. I would’ve like d to understand Anse’s wife’s outlook a little better. Overall, however, “Hatfields & McCoys” is a valuable look at the reality of our country at a time when it was harder to let go of disputes for reasons of survival and the growth of our culture. If you’ve got five hours to kill, you could do worse, but don’t expect a peppy history lesson.

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