Edward Norton is one of those really talented actors who canít seem to find a good script for the life of his career. Down in the Valley is another in a long string of poor to terrible movies that he manages to be very good in despite the film itself.
Down in the Valley starts out kind of interesting. Norton plays a cowboy, or a man who believes he is a cowboy, who wanders into the San Fernando Valley and meets up with a rebellious young teenager leading to a mismatched and doomed love affair. The film seems clumsy, edited together awkwardly and it makes its way to its preposterous conclusion, limping along like John Wayne himself. By the time we get to the end, nothing seems believable anymore and itís hard to even care about the cardboard characters.
This isnít Nortonís fault. He brings the passion and grace of a skilled talent to his part as does the majestic Evan Rachel Wood as his young lover. However, they are forced to speak silly dialogue and are never given motivation that is comprehensible. There is only so much each of them can do with their parts to make it through.
Maybe itís the fault of inexperienced director David Jacobson whose previous work includes the exploitative Dahmer film. Maybe he doesnít know how to create an engaging story. But maybe itís not his fault at all. Maybe itís the fault of the editor since the film looks like it was slapped together by film students who havenít had the proper classes yet.
There are moments where the film becomes something beautiful. A scene with the couple swimming in the endless ocean is quite moving. There is a beautiful moment in the tub and another when Norton tries to teach the emotionless Rory Culkin to shoot which turns out real nice. Otherwise, the film sluggishly moves forward and looses the interest of its audience early in its over 2 hour running time.
Norton really is above this material, just as he was above the overrated Primal Fear, The People vs. Larry Flynt and most of the other underwhelming films of his career. Down in the Valley is just another example of a good actor in a bad choice.