Movie Review: Sometimes a Great Notion

GreatNotionWe visited friends who have a huge collection of movies and a home movie theater. We watched Sometimes a Great Notion, which is based on the third novel by Ken Kesey, published in 1964. His first novel was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie first came out in 1971 and later was also marketed under the title Never Give an Inch. It rates a perfect 100% on the Tomatometer.

Sometimes a Great Notion is a story about an Oregon family of loggers who hold steadfast to remain independent when the entire town is unionizing. They believe in getting up early in the morning and working hard all day, and they disdain the unions and what they do to the people, the work ethic and how they divide the community. Yet, it is they who are seen as the outsiders, who a shunned and ostracized by the townspeople.

This film offers great insight into the lives and livelihood of loggers. Logging is very hard and dangerous work. Watching them operate gigantic machinery, performing backbreaking labor and taking enormous risks every minute of every hour made me think about how good most of us have it, how our own stresses and “hard work” is nothing compared to what these people do every day.

No drama would be complete without some nasty family history, full of unspeakable stuff like incest between stepmother and son, suicide, unhappy wives and a tyrannical father.

Paul Newman directed the movie and stars in it.  Newman plays a recalcitrant logger by the name of Hank Stamper. His father Henry is played by Henry Fonda. The movie was nominated for two Oscars. The story about the stubbornness of one man standing up against the whole world reminded me of another Paul Newman classic – Cool Hand Luke (1967). Hank and Luke seem like almost the same character.

This film is famous for being the first movie ever to be on HBO. The original track was lost in a fire and the only copies now available are bootlegged copies. It’s therefore not easy to find and buy a copy of this movie or rent it.

It was a delightful gem of a vintage movie – something you can’t watch every day – perfect for a cozy evening in a home theater with surround sound, homemade popcorn and wine.

Rating: ***

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