Review: Go West (1925)

go west

My wife would love to have a pet cow, specifically a Jersey!

Written By: Buster Keaton
Directed By: Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton pals around with a cow, that’s all anyone needs to know about Go West. That right there is enough to get me interested in the film. It’s a silly premise, but it’s Buster Keaton and a cow, that means it has to be awesome, right? Right is the correct answer because Mr. Keaton is hilarious in his attempts to be a cowboy, fend for his cow, and deal yet again with the railways. Go West is one of the more conservative features from Mr. Keaton, it’s focused more on an idealized version of the west than anything else. That’s okay though, because Friendless is an idealized Buster Keaton character.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Go West. It was funny, but I wasn’t sure what Mr. Keaton was aiming for with his motion picture. No stabs were being taken at social commentary, at least none that I could discern. Mr. Keaton was avoiding most of the physical comedy that has come to define his career in my eyes. Other characters were engaging in physical comedy, but for the most part Mr. Keaton limited himself to a more observational nature. Thinking about that is what caused Go West to crystallize in my head.

Go West is almost strictly an observational comedy. Even near the very end when Mr. Keaton is traversing the top of a moving railway car the comedy is not about the physicality of what he’s doing. Rather, the comedy in Go West is centered around observing Mr. Keaton as the classic fish out of water. In fact, Go West is the first film I’ve seen from Mr. Keaton where I never thought his character was in any actual physical peril. That’s what happens when observation replaces physicality. There’s no reason to complain about the change either, because Mr. Keaton is just as at home in observational comedy as he is in physical comedy.

The theme of Go West appears to be one of friendship and loyalty. The West offers Friendless a chance at love, friendship, and loyalty in ways that the Midwest, or East, could not. The friendship, loyalty, and love he displays is towards a wayward Jersey cow who will not leave his side. The species of Friendless’ friend doesn’t matter, what matters is that experiencing the freedom of the West allows Friendless to find and form a friendship. Friendless will go to great lengths to keep his friendship, and when he’s saved his friend and has a shot at the girl he still chooses Brown Eyes. There’s something unadulterated about the relationship between Friendless and Brown Eyes.

Once again I highly enjoyed a Buster Keaton film. Go West feels more slight than the rest of Mr. Keaton’s filmography. It’s really not, as appearances can be deceiving. Mr. Keaton’s film is funny and has a great heart about it. Like I said at the beginning, Go West is about Buster Keaton palling around with a cow. What’s not to love about a movie with that premise?

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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