Empire (UK), March 1995
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
by Colette Maude
Sometime model Sissy Hankshaw (Thurman) has thumbs the size of jumbo hot dogs, but rather than feel cursed, she uses them to hitch-hike her way across America. Countless drivers skid to a halt when they're brandished, and even planes are in thrall when she extends them skywards. Sissy's vagrant lifestyle changes, however, when her friend The Countess (an outrageously camp performance from John Hurt) matches her with an asthmatic artist (Reeves) and then sends her to film a TV commercial on his ranch. This outlandish haven is staffed by butch cowgirls led by Bonanza Jellybean (Phoenix, sister of the late River) who plots the demise of the ranch's patriarchy.
Delayed for a year while Van Sant did some serious re-editing, this adaptation of Tom Robbins' novel (originally published in 1976) only serves to prove how unadaptable the book was. It aims to be a hip slice of 70s counter-culture cinema but it's hard to be moved by Sissy's psychedelic trip through political activism and the New York high-life. Unlike the book, which retains some humanity amid philosophical digressions and flowery dialogue, Van Sant's film is cold and the gallery of eccentrics merely come across as vulgar caricatures. The cast do their best with the stilted dialogue, and Thurman projects the right air of innocence, but the best performance is by Angie Dickinson as the ranch's uptight manager. Ultimately, not even the combined efforts of her and Hurt can rescue this film.
Starring: Uma Thurman, Rain Phoenix, Keanu Reeves
Director: Gus Van Sant
Details: 96 mins Cert 15 USA