My legs are sweatin', momma. -- Sissy (Debra Winger) in Urban Cowboy
Ready for some grade-a cheese on film? Go down to your local video store and pick up Urban Cowboy, a 1980 film starring John Travolta (as Buford 'Bud' Davis) and Debra Winger as a pair of tumultuous lovebirds who live in the city, but whose social lives revolve around a country-style bar called Gilley's. Besides the two main characters, one could argue that the mechanical bull in Gilley's has the third biggest role in the film - and I'm being serious, as the mechanical bull is a significant plot point. If you want to watch a truly cheesy romance and see how far over the top John Travolta can really go, this is one worth seeing. The film was produced and distributed by Paramount. It was written by Aaron Latham and director James Bridges, and runs for a total of 132 minutes. It is currently only available for home viewing on VHS, but rumor has it that a DVD version is coming.
The plot of the film revolves around Bud Davis (played by John Travolta), who was raised in the country but has recently moved to a city. He begins to hang out at a country/western themed bar called Gilley's (run by singer Mickey Gilley, who plays himself). So, thoughout virtually the entire film, the cast is wearing late-1970's style western wear. The fashion alone is enough to bring tears of either laughter or pain.
Anyway, Bud takes a job at an oil refinery where his uncle works (this is where most of the relations with his family, through his uncle, take place). He also meets Sissy (played by Debra Winger), who fancies herself to be a cowgirl and hangs out at Gilley's, and the two quickly fall in love and get married. Their romance hits the rocks, however, when Bud sees Sissy hanging out with a con man named Wes (played by Scott Glenn). You see, Bud is pretty good at riding the mechanical bull at Gilley's, but Wes has taught Sissy to ride the bull, too, and thus Bud is jealous of the whole situation and acts like a big child. Bud eventually discovers that Wes plans to rob Gilley's on the night of the mechanical bull-riding contest. Bud signs up for the contest, hoping to win the contest, protect the bar, and save his marriage all in one fell swoop, while wearing polyester faux-western wear.
The acting in the movie is largely solid, but the plot comes off as very contrived and weak. Another thing that hinders the movie is that rather than playing it low-key, many of the actors instead went in the opposite direction, acting in an overly dramatic fashion in many scenes. Adding in the scenes and the costumery makes this film come off as being nearly cartoonish, more so than a romantic film usually should be.
The film only received two Golden Globe nominations, both for Debra Winger's acting. It received no Academy Award nominations. The film wasn't really bashed by critics, but it was not really lauded, either; it fell somewhere in the middle, which for this film is probably just about right.
The film features cameo appearances from a large number of country-western singers who show up to perform at Gilley's; this style of music fills the soundtrack as well. Among the more notable cameos are Charlie Daniels and Bonnie Raitt, and Mickey Gilley plays himself in several additional scenes besides performing.
I think the real test to see if a modern moviegoer would be interested in this film can be boiled down to one question: did you like the film Pure Country? If you were able to look past some of the more over-the-top elements of that pseudo-western romance and come out enjoying it, you will likely find much the same result here. If the name Pure Country causes your stomach to turn, then you will probably get a similar reaction from this film. Other films that might be of interest to a fan of this film include Saturday Night Fever (a much better early Travolta film) and Unforgiven (a much better western-oriented film). Rent this if you're looking for some pure fun, especially in terms of the costumery; turn to the other two if you're looking for a much more worthwhile movie viewing experience.