“Family movie night! We’re watching Sling Blade. This one was written by, directed by, and stars Billy Bob Thornton. I can hear Edward Norton’s voice in my head, quoting Birdman “”That’s ambitious””.
Right so BBT plays Karl. Karl is some ambiguous flavor of mentally ill, and has just been released from the state facility where he spent the majority of his life after murdering his mother and her lover. Now he’s trying to navigate the small home town that has simultaneously changed and stayed the same in the years of his hospitalization. He befriends a young boy and is given a place to stay with him and his single mother. Except mommy is dating a drunken scoundrel of a man, who’s making things rather difficult for Karl and his new friend.
My main takeaway is that this film is incredibly self serving. One of the most self serving films I’ve ever experienced. There are so many slow shots of BBT just standing there. So. Many. IMDB tells me that Harvey Weinstein, producer extraordinaire, bought the film for a rather high sum after only having seen a few minutes. Then he got the final cut and furiously demanded BBT trim it down. I’m not sure if edits were made, but this one runs 2.5 hours, and doesn’t really make good use of all that time. Throughout there’s a constant undertone of BBT thinking “”Look at me, I’m awesome. Love me””
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy parts of it. The film may have been all about BBT, but my favorite character was John Ritter as the mother’s GBF (Gay best friend), Vaughan. It saddens me that I never really appreciated Ritter as an actor until long after he’d passed. Honestly, it’s been pretty recent that I’ve discovered just what a treasure he was to Hollywood. In this movie, he stole the show in a role that was especially written for him. It’s a lot like the characters he’s known for and also a lot different. I guess it’s the heart that’s the same as always. The outer details are what changes.
Speaking of the supporting cast, the little kid looked so familiar, like I knew him in films where he was older. I stared at him for a second. No, it couldn’t be. Could it? And so appropriately timed too? Yes. It was. Lucas Black, better known as the cheaper Paul Walker replacement in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I had just rewatched part of Drift last week, plus Black’s short appearance in 7.
This movie came out right around when I was transitioning out of my country phase (I lived in Texas, it was obligatory, and only lasted a year) into pop. I wasn’t too in tune with the Hollywood scene at the time, but I did know that country star Dwight Yoakam had a role. I also wasn’t too used to the idea of musicians who could act who weren’t named Will Smith, so I had trouble getting my head around the concept. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t really recognize Yoakam with facial hair instead of a cowboy hat. Watching it now, he ain’t half bad. I just wish the rest of the film weren’t so dang slow.”