• FemmeCritic

DEADWOOD: THE MOVIE -- A-

Despite a ton of macho swagger, Deadwood boasts a beautiful script and a couple of fully-realized female characters that make this a must-see for fans of writer David Milch and/or the Deadwood series.


Deadwood: The Movie

As a TV connoisseur, I've had a love-hate relationship going with TV auteur David Milch for a few decades now. On the one hand, there's no denying he's got an exceptional, instantly-recognizable writing voice that turns dialogue into heart-wrenching, and at turns hilarious, fuckin' poetry. He's also one of the supreme storytellers in all of series television.


On the other hand, he's kind of a dick. I've met him several times, and he always came off as a sexist egomaniac, who liked to rant on, ala Swearengen, about the bible and psychology and whatever the fuck else came into his head in the guise of teaching a writing seminar. His two most famous characters are dicks too, at least at first. NYPD Blue's Andy Sipowicz is a racist, homophobic alcoholic New York City detective, and Deadwood's Al Swearengen is the cruel, brutal alcoholic owner of an Old West brothel and saloon. Both are entitled white men who have no trouble taking advantage of that fact.


But over the course of both series, these obvious stand-ins for Milch (an admitted former drug addict and gambler), gradually became woke, and set out to redeem themselves in their own gruff, lovable ways. Which I always found a little too convenient, considering the source. Of late, though, Milch has supposedly become a kindler, gentler version of himself. Now, sadly, he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.


Ian McShane, Paula Malcolmson & David Milch on the set of Deadwood

But if Deadwood: The Movie is going to be his last major project (we hope not), then he's going out with a bang. Thirteen years after Deadwood first premiered on HBO, we get this reunion movie, which finds South Dakota finally earning its statehood, and Bullock (the sheriff played by the great #TimothyOlyphant) and Swearengen (the Emmy-winning #IanMcShane) trying to manage one of the series' most evil villains. So there's quite a bit of macho posturing and brooding going on. And the usually copious amount of fuckin' swearing (yes, so the character name of Swearengen is exactly on the nose).


But unlike NYPD Blue, Deadwood managed to give us a few equally complex female characters, and, it's a true treat to see them again. One of my favorites ever to grace a TV screen, Calamity Jane Cannary (#RobinWeigert) came riding back into town to reconnect with her one true love, the dance hall/madam Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens).


Jane is up to her colorful old tricks again, and lets loose with some of the movie's best, most profane dialogue, not to mention some great emotional scenes and even a key moment of fast-gun heroism. I really have missed Calamity, and that alone makes Deadwood worth seeing.


Calamity Jane & Pal Charlie Utter

Jane is up to her colorful old tricks again, and lets loose with some of the movie's best, most profane dialogue, not to mention some great emotional scenes and even a key moment of fast-gun heroism. I really have missed Calamity, and that alone makes Deadwood worth seeing.


But the reason the film gets an A-, despite it's all-male writing-directing team, is the presence of yet another well-rounded woman character. Al's former concubine Trixie (#PaulaMalcomson), now married to good guy Sol and about to give birth is both hilarious and tragic, and her character's tirade against a former enemy kicks off the entire story. Her complex, tough and tender relationship with both Sol and Swearengen really gives this final chapter of Deadwood its emotional heft.


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