Urban Cowboy (1980)
“Sometimes even a cowboy’s gotta swallow his pride and hold on to somebody he loves.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Unfortunately, the screenplay (co-written by director James Bridges and Aaron Latham, based on Latham’s own story) disappoints in its presentation of marital challenges and machismo run amok. Travolta and Winger’s marriage, while perhaps sadly realistic, is based on nothing more than chemistry and a desire to play at housekeeping, with little real understanding of what such a commitment will entail.
It’s not at all surprising, then, when their romance quickly falls apart, especially given Travolta’s intermittently abusive treatment of Winger. Glenn’s villainous bull-rider is menacing but one-note, and Travolta’s new lover — a beautiful, slumming heiress (Madolyn Smith) with a “thing” for cowboys — simply strikes one as a caricature.
It’s Winger — nurtured by her mentor, Bridges — who gives the film’s most nuanced and noteworthy performance, and remains the primary reason to give this film a one-time look.
Note: For a much better variation on some of the same themes touched upon here, see Nicholas Ray’s The Lusty Men (1952).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “Urban Cowboy (1980)”
Not a must.
This is little more than an ’80s date movie, plotless and fashioned around a fad. It’s certainly a lot longer than it needs to be – and it’s the kind of movie which is so thin that, at one point, a character dies just so something *does* happen. Everything eventually leads to a bar contest which is surprisingly lackluster.
Winger is ok (as is Smith as the resident bitch) but her character is stuck in neutral. (Bridges allows her a better arc in his better film, ‘Mike’s Murder’.)