Robert Altman directs a fine cast with all the authority and finesse a good play deserves, so it’s too bad the play fooled them all. Sam Shepard’s drama of intense, forbidden love in the modern West is made to seem like specious stuff filled with dramatic ideas left over from the 1950s.
Opening up the play, which was set entirely in a dingy motel room, Shepard and Altman have spread out the action all around a rundown motel complex on the edge of the desert.
Eddie, a rangy, handsome cowboy, returns after a long absence to try to get back with the sexy May, with whom he has a can’t-live-with-or-without-her relationship. The two shout, argue, make up, make out, split up, pout, dance around each other and start up all over again, while an old drunk observer takes it all in. Finally, the arrival of another fellow to take May out prompts a nocturnal spilling of the beans about Eddie and May’s taboo love affair.
Beginning with the impressive Shepard, cast is handpicked with care. As the saucy May, Kim Basinger alternately conjures up Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits and Bus Stop and Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman. Harry Dean Stanton is excellent as the washed-up cause of all the problems.