THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN -- AMC Carrollton, AMC Skyline, Aspen Hill, Jenifer, Laurel Cinema, Marlow, Marumsco, Springfield Mall and Tyson's Cinema.
Having Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in the same movie is going to strike some people as a double treat and others as a double threat. Depending on how you feel about them, you expect a team whose intelligence and political discernment enrich their acting, or one whose mindless causism overshadows any professional ability.
"The Electric Horseman" fulfills all these expectations. The perceptive dramatic touches of Fonda and Redford take the stereotypical edge off the stock characters of "cowboy" and "career girl." But these serve ridiculous story making a mushy, if not disreputable, moral point.
Reford plays a former rodeo champion now working, in company with a retired racehorse, for a large corporation as the symbol for a cereal called Ranch Breakfast. He shows up drunk, misses or ruins public appearances, and finally rides away, stealing the horse to save it from mistreatment and set it free. A nationwide search is conducted, primarily by a television newcaster played by Fonda, whose interest is in getting a story until she, like the restof America, comes to accept the cowboy as a hero.
The freedom-loving cowboy is no more familiar here as the quintessential American film hero them Corporate America and The Media are fast becoming as American film villains. All you have to do is look at the corporation executive, with his gray suit and bloodless face, in contrast to Redford's outdoorsy face and lovable suede-fringed clothes, and the executive's preference for sitting in the backs of limousines instead of on the backs of nice horsies, and you know you're supposed to hiss.
The case against The Media is more muddled, because the reporter role serves so well for female catalyst, its chief qualification apparently being a kind of two-timing charm. Fonda begins as villainess, as we recognize from her excess of lipstick and jewelry; but, repenting of both and trying to kill her own story, she becomes a heroine.
But wait a minute. Let's take another look at the hero. Admittedly, he's in an undignified job, having sold his name, face and reputation. But is that entirely the fault of the employer, and not the decision of the employee?As that corporate arch-villain points out, our cowboy is doing a very simple job for a great deal of money. And he isn't even trying to do it conscientiously.
The ethics he embodies are not those of the American frontier hero who values freedom and rough justice over the restrictions of a regulated life. This man is a delinquent and dishonest salesman. The ethics he represents are those that justify stealing office supplies and cheating on expense accounts by the the assumption that the employer is probably a bigger-scale cheat.
Redford and Fonda have used their impressive talents as actors to establish themselves as spokespeople for issues they care about. They do themselves and their causes no good by representing the ideals of this film.