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An aging rodeo rider tries to deal with his dysfunctional family.
Aging rodeo star Junior Bonner decides to return to his hometown of Prescott, Arizona to enter the town's annual Frontier Days rodeo. Hurt from being thrown by a bull in his last rodeo, the affable but broke Junior, whom most people call "JR," borrows money from friends to pay his entrance fee to some of the events, including a wild-cow-milking contest, which he hopes to win with the help of his father, Ace. When Junior goes to see Ace, he finds his ramshackle cabin deserted and in the process of being razed by earthmovers. He then goes to see his mother, Elvira, who has long been estranged from Ace, and lives in town, forced to take in boarders and grow her own vegetables to get by. "Ellie" tells JR that because Ace was hurt in a car accident while driving drunk, she is looking after his dog while he is in the hospital. Ellie also reveals that JR's brother Curly, a successful real estate developer who bought Ace's ranch for a below-market price, wants her to sell her house and collection of antiques to move out to a mobile home park he is developing called Reate Rancheroes. Although she seems resigned to this, JR is unhappy. While JR goes to the rodeo to borrow money and pay entrance fees for several events for himself, as well as the event with Ace, who was a former top rodeo star, Ace tries to convince Curly to lend him money to go to Australia, where he is certain that he can become a successful silver prospector. Curly refuses, insisting that a weekly allowance is all that he will give to his father. Later, Ace sneaks out of his hospital bed, to the annoyance of Nurse Arlis, with whom Ace has been having a flirtation. JR comes to the hospital after Ace has left, but father and son eventually meet during the Frontier Days opening parade, where Ace, a popular local hero, is enthusiastically applauded by the crowd, including Ellie. When Ace and JR sit down and talk at the town's old train station, JR soon realizes that Ace's dreams of becoming a successful prospector will never come true and, like all of his other dreams, will fail because of gambling or women. That night, Curly, his wife Ruth and their two children have dinner with Ellie and JR. Curly's brittle wife dislikes JR, as well as the more old-fashioned way of life that he, Ellie and Ace have lived. After dinner, when JR and Curly start to talk about why Curly bought Ace's ranch for such a small price, Curly says that Ace would have gambled away more if he had paid more, prompting JR to start a fight, which ends when Curly is thrown through the dining room window. The next day, JR briefly leads in the cattle-roping event, but another contestant wins. In the chaotic wild-cow-milking contest, JR and Ace have the fastest time in collecting milk in an empty Coca-Cola bottle, but on the way to the judge's stand, Ace trips over his rambunctious dog, which has wandered into the arena, and spills the milk. When the disappointed Ace tells JR that they could have won, his son puts his arm around him and reassuringly says, "We did." Later, the Palace Bar is filled with revellers drinking, dancing and having a good time. As Ace, JR and Buck talk at the bar, Curly, Ruth and their children arrive, accompanied by Ellie. Although nervous, Ellie and Ace greet each other warmly and JR reminds Ace that he always has the first dance with her. As the couple tentatively dances, Curly and JR talk companionably, then Curly punches JR and knocks him down in retaliation for the fight the day before. JR merely smiles, gets up and amiably asks Curly if he wants a beer. Curly then tells his brother that he loves him and does not care how many lots he sells but wants to keep his family close. Though grateful, JR tells him that he has to go down his own road. Moments later, Charmagne, a pretty woman who had been flirting with JR earlier, enters the bar with her rich boyfriend. JR goes to their table and asks her to dance, angering her boyfriend, who grudgingly allows him to have one dance. On the dance floor, JR denies Red the chance to cut in, but when he sees the boyfriend coming toward them, suddenly changes partners with Red, making Red the target of the boyfriend's wrath. The two men begin a brawl that quickly turns into a melee involving both men and women. While JR and Charmagne take refuge in a telephone booth, Curly and some others slip into the ladies room, and Ace and Ellie walk outside. On the outside staircase of the Palace Hotel, Ellie slaps Ace's face when he asks her to go with him to Australia. Realizing that they can never live together again but will always love each other, Ace and Ellie agree that they at least have the day, and go upstairs to a room. Later, at the final events of the rodeo, JR nervously takes his position on Sunshine, waiting for the bull-riding contest. Though haunted by thoughts of being thrown by the bull the previous week, JR maintains his composure and when it is his turn, he has the winning time for bull-riding, thus winning the $950 prize money and enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. Later, JR takes Charmagne to the airport and says goodbye, with both knowing that, despite their burgeoning feelings, they will never see each other again. JR then drives to Ellie's house to say goodbye, after which he goes to a travel agent and pays cash for a first class, one-way ticket to Australia for Ace and his dog. When the agent asks who she should say bought the ticket, he says, "Tell him JR sent you," then drives out of town.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||World premiere in Dallas, TX: 11 Jun 1972; Los Angeles opening: 21 Jun 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
A Joe Wizan--Booth Gardner Production
|Color/B&W:||Color||Distributions Co:||Cinerama Releasing Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Solar Productions, Inc., ABC Pictures Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||100 or 102||Country:||United States|
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User Ratings & Review
kevin sellers 2014-12-16
Tied with Ride The High Country as my favorite Peckinpah film. It was made during the early 70s rodeo craze, but the cowboy stuff is fairly perfunctory. It...
KC Cline 2014-02-26
I don't believe those who have reviewed this movie got what Peckinpaw was going for. Sure, I will agree that not much happens. But this is not an...
Get along, little doggy!
Matthew P. Escajeda 2011-08-03
The movie is a interesting study of a dysfuntional family in the American Southwest circa the early '70s, but it spends too much time on that one...