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Film / The Milagro Beanfield War

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The Milagro Beanfield War is a 1988 Magic Realism comedy-drama film directed by Robert Redford and featuring an Ensemble Cast including Rubén Blades, Richard Bradford, Sônia Braga, Julie Carmen, James Gammon, Melanie Griffith, John Heard, Carlos Riquelme, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Walken.

In the tiny, impoverished northern New Mexico town of Milagro, a struggling farmer illegally diverts water intended for a new ski resort onto his barren pinto bean field, touching off a confrontation between the Anglo resort owners and the local Hispanic farmers and ranchers.

John Nichols and David S. Ward adapted the film's screenplay from Nichols' 1974 novel of the same name. Dave Grusin won an Academy Award for his music score.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Many book characters aren't in the film, such as Charlie's wife (a Milagro local who brought him to the town in the first place) and Amarante's grown children.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Armarante
  • Dying Town: Milagro has very few young adults, as most of them leave town as soon as they can. Water being dammed up has made most of the local farmers sell their land. Finally, a planned development will raise taxes to the point where no one can afford to stay. The book also mentions that the average high school class size a decade earlier was sixteen, and that during The Vietnam War most of the male recent graduates ended up in the army and often died.
    Ruby: What good is a hometown if everyone you know is gone?
  • False Flag Operation: After the developers try to bribe Joe with a job and have him seriously considering abandoning the beanfield, Joe's closest ally Armarante fires a shot through Joe's window to make him think that one of Devine's people was willing to endanger him and his family and sour him against the job offer.
  • Handicapped Badass: A one-armed barfly and local eccentric proves that he can hold and aim a shotgun with his remaining arm during more than one Mexican Standoff.
  • May–December Romance: Ladd Devine's wife is about thirty years younger than him and some of her dialogue implies that they did Marry for Love but that things haven't been as good between them lately.
  • Meaningful Name: Milagro is Spanish for 'miracle' and the underdogs win.
  • Mexican Standoff: Near the end of the movie, between the police and the residents of Milagro, when Montana tries to arrest Joe and take him out of town.
    Sheriff Montoya: (to the police) Does the name Custer ring a bell?
  • The Needs of the Many: In the book, state engineer Nelson Bookman and his assistant Rudy Hoynes try to allocate the state's water supply to both the cash crop growers boosting the economy and the sustenance farmers. Many of their decisions are based on economic progress and have consequently taken away a lot of water that the struggling sustenance farmers once had a right to. However, since Bookman and Hoynes refuse to give all of the water to either group of farmers, both groups feel cheated and hate the two bureaucrats.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Devine's foreman Horsethief Shorty is a tall guy and is never indicated to be an actual horse thief.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They wear Mexican peasant clothing and play the concertina.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Six of Amarante Córdova's thirteen children and ten or so of his thirty plus grandchildren have predeceased him by the second chapter of the book (most of them dying in transportation accidents or various wars).
  • Plausible Deniability: When shady state police official Kyril Montana (who has been sent to stop Joe without arresting him) and his allies discuss how Joe will lose his cow if it goes onto Forest Service land, Montana excuses himself from the room and lets the others figure out how to illegally move Joe's cow from one field to the other.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Joe and his wife Nancy sometimes argue about Joe's decisions and threaten to hit each other, but they never actually do so and it seems to just be foreplay before they kiss and talk things through more calmly.
  • The Trickster: The Coyote Angel.