Okay, I realize I am way behind in seeing The History Channel’s premier of The Hatfields and The McCoys. It’s been on my DVR for weeks. The buzz has come and gone. Bill Paxton is immediately forgotten again.
Nevertheless, Mike and I devoted three of the last four nights to getting through it. Now, many of you saw my interview with Mr. Costner himself in the last issue of Insite. And, well if not… I pasted it below! He’s a charmer, but the kind that comes with a solemn, sardonic tone that suggests a deep respect for both nostalgia and the way we handle nostalgia. As much as Paxton is a freak when it comes to getting in character, Costner is that way when it comes to defending his work. The interview, my ridiculous love for untold stories of US History and the fact that this was the first mini series to come on something other than HBO (meaning MAYBE if it’s good enough to win a nod, I will have actually gotten to have an opinion) made it top priority on the DVR. We waited a while to watch, because I (sorry, can’t really speak for Mike) wanted to be in the right mindset: settled, focused and emotionally open.
Part 1 was an inadequate measure of how violent the rest of the series would be. I loved it though. The characters are real, real dirty and meaner than you can even imagine someone being to your face today. (Note that Costner is still attractive, even dirty, bearded and merciless). Paxton is deep, deep in his character, to the point that I often forgot it was him. The beard helped there too, but really, he was a monotoned, Debbie-downer, been spited by the whole world family man like you’e never seen. He seemed to truly grasp the personality of a hopeless, loveless man of long ago. One who couldn’t see the light at the end of any sort of tunnel and took out that frustration on the friends and family who maybe, just maybe could have helped create one for him.
Okay, so real quick, the story (if you’re like Mike and claim to have never heard of this famous feuding family before), the Hatfields and the McCoys hated each other to the point of killing one another off, man by man in senseless, merciless ways unimaginable in today’s society. You disagree? You get shot. You blink wrong? You get shot. After a long and trying Civil War, these men started their own divide and didn’t stop until (almost) every last one of them was buried in the earth. Amidst the gun smoke is a Romeo and Juliet-like love story, a question of deep-down morals and the idea of justice outside the law.
I really liked this series. Yes, I am completely open to being called biased because I am a sucker for history stories, especially ones in our own country. I love learning where modern-day catch phrases come from, I love seeing what shaped our morals and laws into what they are today and I love to see great stories told on screen. (I love them in novel format too, and I looked for something in Barnes and Noble the other day on them but couldn’t find anything… taking recommendations). Costner’s production and directorial stab wins high marks in my book. He was good. Real good. The casting was good. Real good. The scenery (Romania) was questionable (people ask, “how can you tell one of the most famous stories of US History in somewhere other than the US?), but perfect. The emotion was raw and tragic. I absolutely don’t care what details were fabricated around the bloodline of this story, because the packed up final execution was seamless, entertaining, suspenseful and riveting. I’d watch it again if I wouldn’t have to fast forward through the commercials this time. I’ll certainly see whatever Costner takes on next… And, (sigh) I will pay more attention to Bill Paxton and the roles he chooses. He’ll forever be the guy in Twister, really, but he deserves a little credit for a job well done here.
If you haven’t seen it, check your Guide for middle-of-the-night airings on The History Channel. It’s 3 (long) parts, but it’s absolutely worth it.