"Lone Star" shines

By Chito de la Torre
    "This is an amazing role," said Elizabeth Pena, star of "Lone Star," the John
Sayles murder-mystery.  "Its a real role for a woman," she exclaimed. 
Likewise "Lone Star" is a very genuine movie about life in a Texas border town
where real borders are the ones created in our own heads.
    According to Pena, she jumped at the chance to work on a John Sayles film.  
    "I was home and the phone rang," Pena explained to me during a recent phone
interview.  "It was my agent saying John Sayles has a movie that he's doing
and he'd like you to be in it and I said fine, great close the deal.  And he
said, `Wait a minute.  Don't you want to read the script.'  I'm going no if
it's John Sayles, I want to do it.  I don't care what it is.  And then I got
the script and I said my God, bonus!"
    John Sayles is known for the intense way in which he chronicles 20th century
American life.  Among his best known films are "Union Dues," "Los Gusanos,"
and "Brother from another Planet."
    "Lone Star" unfolds in Frontera, Texas (and shot in Eagle Pass).  It shows
how the lives of many of the town's people have been woven together by two
dead sheriffs, one presumably good, the other undeniably evil.
    When the skeletal remains of Sheriff Charley Wade (Kris Kristofferson who's
the bad guy) are discovered, old memories, fears and myths are resurrected.
    Pena plays Pilar Cruz, a school teacher, who like her names implies, has a
very heavy cross to bear.  John Sayles, who not only directed but also wrote
and edited the film, didn't waste his time with subtleties.  But fortunately,
he did spend time on developing each of the characters and the set.  
    Except for freshly dug-up Sheriff Wade, no one is all bad or all good. 
Everyone is real.
    Pilar, now a widow with two kids, finds herself in the middle of several
battles, with a school board that wants to perpetuate myths about Texas
history instead of educate, another with her mother who has never approved of
her headstrong ways, and one with an old flame she longs to rekindle.
    Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) is Pilar's former boyfriend, and now he's back in
town and has taken over as Sheriff, a post that his daddy, Buddy Deeds, left
open when he died.      It's been rumored for decades that it was Buddy that did
the evil sheriff Wade in (something that was greatly appreciated by most of
the town), but now that the proof has apparently been uncovered, it's up to
Sam to unearth up the truth.
    "Lone Star" has some great plot twists, but it's not your action packed
shoot'em up Western (thank God).  It's a richly textured story about myths and
how they need to be explored instead of accepted as fact because things are
never what they seem.
    One of Elizabeth Pena's closing lines sums it up best.  "Forget the Alamo." 
Lone Star is a film that will make you rethink your own myths, and certainly
one that no "real" Texan should miss.

--30-- (printed with permission)