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Affliction (1997): There Is No Cure

Affliction (Paul Schrader, 1997)

[originally posted 14Nov2001]

Nick Nolte walks away from James Coburn on the movie poster.

Walking away never solves anything. Except when it does.
photo credit: Wikipedia

Paul Schrader and Nick Nolte have both had, at best, inconsistent careers. Putting the two of them together, one would assume that the resulting film had an above-average chance of being godawful. And yet somehow, what they ended up with was Affliction, a movie that garnered Best Actor noms for Nolte from everyone who matters and most who don’t, and actually garnered a Best Supporting academy award for James Coburn. The Academy, of course, have never been the world’s best judges of taste, but they hit the mark this time.

Nolte and Coburn in a violent moment in a still from the film.

“You grabbed the Krazy Glue instead of the Astroglide, you idiot!”
photo credit:

Wade Whitehouse (Nolte) is a part-time cop and city worker in a small town in upstate New Hampshire. He’s burdened with a pain-in-the-ass ex-wife (Mary Beth Hurt), a new girlfriend (Sissy Spacek), a boss who’s a bit too slick for his own good (Homes Osborne), and an alcoholic father (Coburn) whose path he’s dangerously close to treading himself. When deer season begins with a suspicious hunting accident, both Whitehouse and his boss resent the State Police horning in immediately, and Whitehouse starts investigating.

Nick Nolte gets ready for a morning of hunting in a still from the film.

The last thing you ever want is to look out your window one morning and see Nick Nolte toting a rifle.
photo credit:

Ultimately, the movie is a character study of Whitehouse and his relationship to his father, and the mystery of the dead deer hunter takes, or should take, second stage to this. And this is the film’s only major failing; Schrader and Russell Banks (adapting his own short story) feel the need, after sublimating the mystery in the film’s climax, to tie up the loose ends the script has spent two hours demanding be left at the end. Losing the last two minutes of narration would have done this film a world of good. But those last two minutes aren’t enough to undercut the first hundred sixteen, which are excellent through and through. I’m not normally a fan of Nick Nolte in any way, shape, or form, but he’s excellent in here, as is Coburn. Sissy Spacek shows us why she never should have fallen into obscurity after an all-too-short stint on the A-list, and Willem Dafoe, who plays Wade’s brother Rolf, does his usual excellent job despite having very little screen time. Aside from the wealth of starpower, the cinematography is grand. Well, as long as you like snow, snow, and more snow. Nice to see someone using something other than darkness to give a feeling of claustrophobia.

The climax, in this Oprah-infested age, is predictable, especially to anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with Russell Banks. That, however, is as irrelevant as who actually killed the deer hunter. ***½



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Seconds (1966): A Better Tomorrow | Popcorn for Breakfast

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