It's thirty years after the coming-of-age story of friends and lovers that is The Last Picture Show and it's time for the next rite of passage - the middle age crisis. The familiar characters experience marriage and business break ups, and their world is turned over again just by the sheer presence of Jacy Farrow, the manipulative home-coming-queen neither the characters nor the audience can forget.
A mere 19 years after the Oscar-winning The Last Picture Show, maverick director Peter Bogdanovich at last unveils the sequel, Texasville. A much bigger movie than the original - and a much smaller hit at the US box office - Texasville certainly has its faults but, typical of the uneven work of Bogdanovich, there are scenes here which work wonderfully well and resonate long after the end credits have rolled.
It's 1984, and 30 years after the teenagers of Anarene, Texas took their first reluctant steps into the world of adulthood, they now face mid-life crisis as businesses and marriages fail and true love remains as enticing yet remote a prospect as in those adolescent early 50s. Duane Jackson (Bridges) is on the verge of bankruptcy as his small oil company can't compete in the energy glut, while his high school buddy Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) is now town mayor, declining from merely dreamy to downright moonstruck. As if this weren't enough, Duane's disaffected yet feisty wife Karla (Potts) spends like there's no tomorrow, while son Dickie (aptly named, played by William McNamara) is cuckolding half of Duane's middle-aged friends. There's an awful lot of yelling and tears, and then, like a vision of cool, melancholy poise, re-enter the former homecoming queen, Jacy Farrow (Shepherd), her mere presence making the world even madder, before somehow restoring to it a kind of stoic harmony.
Baggy, episodic and concerned more with character than plot, Texasville has both to re-establish the dramatis personae for those of us who have neglected to memorise the finer points of The Last Picture Show, and fix them with all their implied past lives in the minds of first-time visitors to Anarene - difficult, as the cast is large and a fair deal of wooden exposition shoehorned into the early dialogue simply fails to clarify who's who, when and why. Though such fine actors from the first movie as Leachman, Bottoms, Eileen Brennan and Randy Quaid find themselves underwritten here, the focus on Duane at least gives Bridges yet another careworn, deceptively oafish romantic role in which to shine with wit and rumpled dignity. With a drawl as wide as the numbing blue sky, he grounds the movie in a wistful reality even when elsewhere it erupts into Texan burlesque, from the hellzapoppin' egg fight to a running gag of Soap-style comic histrionics that sets a broadly parodic tone in bizarre contrast with the muted, elegaic Picture Show. Flawed in its basics but often delightful in detail, Texasville deserves to be seen as a genuinely adult movie about the tricks that time plays on us all.
An amazing exercise in character development which successfully shows the character as they were in the first film and as they are now. It is flawed in the basics, but often delightful in detail.