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The Men Who Stare at Goats

georgeclooneyAs I walked out of the theatre after seeing Grant Heslov’s adaptation of  The Men Who Stare At Goats, a couple of kids asked, “How was it? Was it good?”

I paused, dumbfounded.

“I…I don’t know what to say,” I replied.

“Cause it looks good,” laughed the kid. “Goats. Goats are f**king rad.”

And they are….raitle, the premise, all promise goat-filled hilarity that never quite ensues. That’s not to say the film isn’t well done. George Clooney is superb as Lyn Cassidy, an aging member of the former secret military group the ‘Jedi Warriors,’ which is an actual underground training program that teaches military men how to enhance their psychic abilities through dance, yoga, and meditation. Basically, they are the army’s top-secret hippie sector.

The film alternates between flashbacks of Clooney’s decorated past as the Jedi Warrior’s most talented psychic, and his current mission that has landed him and Ewan McGregor in the middle of the Iraq desert.

Heslov’s direction is subtle and understated, which is juxtaposed nicely with the bizarre subject matter. Jon Ronson’s book of the same title, the basis for the film, is prevalent throughout the story and almost overpowers the action. Fascinating events feature so many different characters, locations and storylines, that Heslov has difficulty creating one seamless, connected tale.

So, what about the goats? When asked if he could stop a goat’s heart simply by staring at it, Lyn Cassidy (Clooney) is surprisingly successful. He carries such guilt about the billy-goat blunder that he sets an entire barn full of army goats free in the desert. To celebrate, Ewan and Jeff Bridges spike the camp’s water supply with a healthy dose of LSD.

Bridges’ transformation from peace-loving psychic solider to debilitated drunkard is truly remarkable. Paired with Clooney’s escapist performance, The Men Who Stare At Goats is an exercise in exemplary acting.

There are no women in this film. There are no. Women. In this film. Like, at all. Ewan McGregor’s wife manages to leave him without ever speaking a line of dialogue. A few female soldiers silently giggle through their LSD trips. Is it worse to have women in crappy, so-and-so’s-girlfriend roles, or not there at all? There are ten billion of us in Hollywood, a few of us are talented and we need to work, Mr. Clooney! (Who also produced).

The story is not a tight little package, isn’t particularly satisfying and raises tons of unanswered questions. Which in theory, is a good thing, but never quite works here. The strange subject matter is admirable, and the fact that a film like this got released in theatres is pretty remarkable. Maybe it’s worth going to see just for that. Maybe.

The Men Who Stare At Goats, based on Jon Ronson’s book, was directed by Grant Heslov, and stars George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. And no chicks.

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