(a “what cannot be helped must be endured” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
A friendly cinephile brought ROB ROY to my attention. I have tried to watch this film many times before because I’m a massive and huge (BOTH) Jessica Lange fan, but I never could get through it. I gave it one more try and, alas, here is my unusual film review, in that I will review the film not paint-by-number but rather based on the film’s line: “What cannot be helped must be endured.” That line is, after all, the key to life’s troubles and tribulations (BOTH) when the camera is rolling and when it’s not (BOTH).
I think the main reason I could never get through this film is because I just don’t jive with a Scottish tale that is filled with fightings and duelings and beatings, most accomplished while riding horses (this animal welfare advocate and film reviewer definitely does not jive with that). But at the heart of this film is a man’s honor. I remember once looking up my name, “Timothy,” to find out what it means, and it means “honouring God”, “in God’s honour”, or “honoured by God.” Now that’s the kind of man’s honor I’m talking about, even if there is an extra ‘u’ in the definitions😉. Rob Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is a man of honor, even if it’s not aligned with God’s Honor as best I could tell. Rob Roy is a man of honor of his word. And scratch that “God’s Honor” part, because the downfall and eventual rise of Rob Roy has a huge part in God’s Plans. Rob Roy refuses to bring dishonor to another man and if that is not an “Honored Roll Call” from God on one man’s life, I don’t know what is.
The film asks all of us this question: “What do we do when we are dishonored?” Is the answer, “what cannot be helped must be endured?” Some of us help our dishonor and endure it to the ends of earth (and often hell) to get our honor back. Some of us help our dishonor and endure it to the ends of earth (and often hell) but don’t get our honor back. It’s not a done deal, is it? But dishonor can be helped and endured to a place of honor when it’s an “inside job.” All things pursued of the greatest value in our lives are indeed “inside jobs.” If we are dishonored by another, so what? That speaks more about their “inside” dishonor than our “inside” need for honor, right? Won’t the dishonorable ones reap what they sow without us needing to do the sowing for them? We don’t have to help our dishonor and endure it to the ends of earth (and often hell) for honor’s sake, because we already have all our honor “inside,” no matter what others say or do or don’t say or do to dishonor that, and it can never be taken away from us unless we let it. I might be making this claim because my name is “Timothy” and I just can’t help but live in “honour.” But I also know “Timothy” does a bang-up job of dishonoring himself “inside.” Rob Roy gets his honor back at the end of the film; I just wish he didn’t have to help and pursue it to the ends of earth (and often hell). But that’s where his wife, Mary (Jessica Lange), comes in. His pursuit of honor was more for his wife than for himself and, once again, if that’s not an “Honored Roll Call” from God, I don’t know what is. His pursuit for his broken pride under the guise of dishonor is one thing but to pursue honor for another’s dishonor is a whole other pursuit. That pursuit is selflessness and that has nothing to do with honoring the ego’s pride.
I am not particularly a fan of Liam Neeson who plays Rob Roy MacGregor. Neeson gave a stellar performance in SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993) but other than that, he’s just “okay” in my book. Is it because he’s so darn handsome and so darn tall that I’m just jealous? I don’t know….maybe? And please do not get me started on Jessica Lange who plays Mary MacGregor, because we’ll be here all night. Lange is luminous in this film, as in everything I’ve ever seen Lange in. Truth be told, if it hadn’t been for Lange in this film, I can assure you I never would have watched this film. What I will say as far as performances in this film is that Tim Roth, who plays Archibald Cunningham, should be shot for his performance. He was that sleazy and that sublime! Speaking of the “ego’s pride,” Archibald Cunningham is ego run rampant, and Roth epically balances BOTH Archibald’s sleaziness AND his sickening humor, undoubtedly the very reason why Roth received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination for his performance. I could have just killed Archibald throughout this entire film if Roth hadn’t been so darn brilliantly clever in the role!
I had a particularly interesting experience watching this film. At the end of the film when Rob Roy and Archibald have the pivotal duel of honor, either my DVD player or the DVD itself had a major scratch. I was at the scene of Archibald holding out his dueling sword and the next scene was Rob Roy walking away in one piece. I, of course, knew who won the duel, but I still would have liked to have seen Archibald take it in the gut or wherever he took it. Actually, speaking of “scratch,” scratch that: I wouldn’t have wanted to see Archibald hurt because I see myself in him a whole lot. That selfishness, that “look how great I am,” that ego, are all things that I unfortunately grapple with and that unfortunately dishonor me in the Face of God. I don’t like admitting that, but I do live up to my name, “Timothy,” by “honouring God”, “in God’s honour”, or “honoured by God, and that means telling the truth at all costs!
While ROB ROY is not a film I can call a classic or a masterpiece (BOTH), it is a film that spoke to my name and its meaning and spoke to my ego that I can feel is slowly fading away the more I bring its secret dueling to the surface to heal by God’s Holy Spirit. I don’t think “Timothy Roy” will be my new name but honoring Timothy and honoring God (BOTH), yes, that “what cannot be helped must be endured” will help and endure me as long as I live by my God (Spirit) and NOT by my flesh (ego). As you can tell in this review and in all my creativity, I typically roll with BOTH, but I cannot have BOTH on this one! I wonder if Rob Roy discovered after the credits rolled that he couldn’t have BOTH either?