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Perhaps its producers thought billing it as a comedy would be a bigger draw – believing, maybe, that people prefer to laugh than to think, or to identify, or to care. But “The Milagro Beanfield War,” directed by Robert Redford, is most of all a sweet movie, full of adorable characters happy to shoot old pistols when they have to.
It’s not the Old West. It’s Old New Mexico, where, as in so many other places, a way of life is threatened by a newer, more destructive, more expensive one. The townspeople don’t really want the land where they and their children grew up to turn into to tee boxes and condos.
Call it nostalgia, tradition, respect for the land, whatever you want – they’re willing to make their last stand for it.
One man in particular: Joe Mondragon (a familiar surname in these parts), played by Chick Vennera, doesn’t know at first whether he’s making a statement or just planting beans. As he says – I’m paraphrasing – “No one’s going to care about one lousy beanfield.”
Most days, in most places, he’d be spot on. But he’s using the developers’ water supply and he’s planting on the proposed 13th green.
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