Best of 2020: Maggie Grace on First Cow

The actress, currently starring in Love, Weddings and Other Disasters, on Kelly Reichardt's highly acclaimed revisionist Western.

The film I saw recently that I really loved was Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. I watched it online the day it came out. I’d seen posters for it on my local cinema’s marquee, so I’d been keeping my eye out for it for a long time. I thought it was a really unusual addition to the Western genre, the place and the pacing of it. It felt like very confident storytelling and really rhythmic, the quietness of the two main characters’ daily lives and their friendship, and the casual brutality of the place and time in which they lived. The characters are involved in what’s almost a heist plot, but Kelly Reichardt consciously turns away from the more splashy moments. We don’t see their ultimate fate, we just feel it, which is much more sad, really. I was relieved to not have a scene at the end that I couldn’t bear, which is so unusual.

First Cow is a small film and a small story, but it’s heartbreaking. The chord the first scene struck, I wasn’t sure if I trusted the film, because it was framed in that way. These are small lives, quiet lives, that have their own grand aspirations, and big love and big loss that no one will ever know about. And there was something really wonderful in the way that it did pay off at the end.

I loved John Magaro and Orion Lee’s performances in it; they were tender and gentle, and they really breathed. They took their time. That friendship felt earned. We see that kind of alliance on film a lot and it is usually developed in such token, pat ways, so it was nice to have a film unapologetically take its time earning that – as opposed to getting super carried away with their perilous entrepreneurial criminal activity.

I’ve seen a couple of Kelly Reichardt’s films, but I love Westerns if they’re really true to the period. Not the swashbuckling kind, but the kind with flies in the frame and bad teeth. Some people judge a sushi restaurant by the quality of just the rice; I’m that way with Westerns and bad teeth. I’m all in if you’ve got a couple characters with truly bad teeth, and First Cow did.

Ironically, I have very little stomach for violence as a viewer, even though I tend to be cast in action-driven movies a lot of the time. I was raised on really long British dramas that had very little plot. My parents were nerds in that respect, so I definitely have patience for films like First Cow that just breathe. I don’t work on those type of projects as much, for whatever reason, but as a viewer, I definitely love to take the time.

Maggie Grace currently stars as Jessie in the new romantic comedy Love, Weddings & Other Disasters, out December 4 in theaters and on demand through Saban Films. She first made a name for herself in the acting world when she secured a role for herself on the hit TV series Lost. Grace won a Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series along with the rest of the Lost cast. Soon after, she went on to star in a multitude of commercially successful films such as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 & 2 and all three Taken films. In addition to her career on screen, Grace has found success on the stage as well. In 2012, Grace debuted alongside Sebastian Stan in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Picnic. Today, Grace maintains her status as a series regular on the beloved, award-winning TV show Fear the Walking Dead.