Sorry for not getting this up sooner... I've been a busy boy this weekend.
Hey, no problem. We all have those kinds of weekends.
Now for my thoughts on GO WEST. I will say right now that I absolutely LOVE this movie! This, in my opinion, is Keaton’s most underrated film. Granted, I have yet to hear someone say that they dislike this movie, but no one ever ranks this up there with films like SHERLOCK JR. or SEVEN CHANCES. Even Keaton himself apparently didn’t think that highly of it, which is a shame, because it is a very brilliant film.
The basic plot mainly revolves around Keaton’s relationship with a cow named Brown Eyes. On paper, it seems like a very silly plot, and is obviously played up for comedy in certain respects, but I actually find it to be pretty sweet as well. While they do sort of imply a romantic relationship with the ranch owner’s daughter, they end up discarding that towards the end, which I have to admit I like. It’s nice to know that this is a movie specifically about friendship. These kinds of movies were rare back then and are even pretty rare now, so it really is nice to see Keaton go in this direction.
The film starts by establishing the loneliness of Keaton’s character. After all, his name is literally Friendless. He initially heads for the city, but after a terrible encounter decides to go somewhere else, ending up at a ranch. This setting allows for Keaton to do some funny fish out of water gags, such as when he uses red to attract the steer, despite it only having been a joke from the other workers, and when he fails to understand the concept of milking a cow. I can see someone try to make the argument that this kind of thinking is a bit too much like Keaton’s later “Elmer” character, though remember that he is in a much different place than he’s used to and this is before the Internet, so naturally he wouldn’t understand how to milk a cow, and I think it makes for a pretty funny sight gag.
After failing to ride a mule, Keaton comes across Brown Eyes for the first time. The film establishes their friendship when Keaton gets the rock out of her hoof and she saves him from a steer. Though the cow really can’t show a whole lot of emotion, careful camera tricks allow for us to see her as a surprisingly emotionally complex character. When we’re first introduced to her, it shows her being far away from the other steer, symbolizing how she doesn’t fit in much like Friendless. I think another good example of this is when she and Keaton are leaving the bedroom after being kicked out. She looks in the door and even though we don’t see her face, we get an idea of how ticked off she is at the workers for being so rude to them. I really have to give the cow credit for being so responsive. Whenever Keaton motions her somewhere or has her do something, she always obliges, so there’s always a sense that the cow knows what she should be doing.
Keaton’s relationship with the other workers is not as good as with the cow, though, and I think this allows for a very funny recurring gag in which Keaton can never eat at the same table with them. Even when he gets there early, he intentionally leaves as soon as they show up! We also get more shots detailing Keaton’s friendship with Brown Eyes, such as when he gives her antlers to get revenge on the other steer.
Unfortunately for Keaton and Brown Eyes, the ranch owner has made her a part of his deal to send cattle to the slaughterhouse. Keaton attempts to get the money to buy Brown Eyes’s freedom through a card game with some of the other workers. There’s a very funny gag in here in which one of them tries to force Keaton to smile. Even with a gun pointed at him, Keaton can not bring himself to smile! Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the money, so the only option for him is to go with Brown Eyes on the train.
Another funny recurring gag is with Keaton’s tiny gun. Throughout the film he carries it with him, even when he’s given a much better one. I particularly like when during the shoot-out, one of the men ends up taking his tiny gun, only to show disgust once he realizes what it is.
Since the train does not make its destination, it is up to Keaton to save the day by delivering the cattle to the stockyard. He leaves Brown Eyes at a parking lot and I particularly like how the guy standing there is totally OK with Keaton leaving his cow there. Remembering the red advice that he got earlier, Keaton ends up acquiring a devil costume, though he comes off looking more like Felix the Cat when photographed in black-and-white (Keaton even acknowledges this by pacing just like Felix did in the cartoons). He gets Brown Eyes and leads the steers out of the city. One highlight during this is when the police try to catch Keaton while avoiding the steers at the same time. While I can’t say that this is better than the climax from SEVEN CHANCES, I think that it comes very close and definitely ranks up there with it. In the end, everything turns out alright, as Keaton gets to work for the rancher again and, more importantly, gets to keep Brown Eyes.
I know it seems like such a silly plot, but I can’t help it. I just love this film so much! This is without a doubt my second favorite of all of Keaton’s films (believe it or not, there is one more film in the not-so-distant future that I slightly prefer to this). I stand by my point that this film deserves a much better reputation than it currently has.
10 out of 10