Continental Divide (1981)

The Continental

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Early during Continental Divide as I was gradually enjoying the film more and more and becoming emotionally invested in its two characters (very emotionally invested I might add), storm clouds began forming over me. I came to the realisation that at some point the movie was going to pull of my least favourite movie cliché, the liar revealed. You know, the woman finds out the man isn’t what he claims to be, after a big monologue about how betrayed she feels, they break up, cue the sad montage music but 20 minutes late they forgive each other and live happily ever after, the end.

Thus it was a huge sigh of relief when Blair Brown’s (not the former British government cabinet) Nell Porter discovers John Belushi’s Ernie Souchak (a name which sounds like it’s taken from a 1930’s newspaper comedy) is secretly writing a news piece on her after he agreed not to during this early point in the film. They don’t argue about it, she happily accepts it. How about when Ernie discovers Nell has been meeting a man in the wilderness purely for sexual intercourse and not for a passionate relationship, does he freak out? No, he has no problem with it and that’s the way it should be! That’s one of the things I loved most about Continental Divide, it was like a big middle finger to the inane and contrived clichés which plague modern-day romantic comedies.

Continental Divide is one of my favourite man and woman alone in the wilderness type movies, in this screwball comedy for the 1980’s; which at the time advertised Belushi and Brown as the next Hepburn & Tracy. With the likes of His Girl Friday and Libeled Lady, Continental Divide has the underlying theme that long-term romantic relationships and careers in journalism are an apparent impossibility; only the typewriters are out in favour of computers. Although I do have to ask how many journalists have the levels of a celebrity among the populace as Ernie Souchak has, in which he is constantly recognised in the street. Likewise, Ernie Souchak’s employment of the Chicago Sun-Times is the paper film critic Rodger Ebert writes for, although there is no cameo or mention of him in the film, likely due to a conflict of interest.

Nell Porter is a woman so reclusive she lives in the mountains while attending to her study of Eagles. She has a desire for peace and quiet and I get the impression she is disenfranchised with civilisation, partly due to her dislike of the media. Having a female character like this is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to a love story like this, since weird girls are my thing. Plus speaking of the wilderness, does this movie look good! Filmed atop of actual mountains in Montana and Washington State, It just shows you that Planet Earth is the greatest movie set of all.

It is evident from both Continental Divide and his final film Neighbours that John Belushi was trying to escape typecasting. Continental Divide proves he had what it takes to be a romantic leading man, however, his time left on this world was short at this point but the legend lives on.