Time: 135 mins.
Now I should say that I don't put much stock in reviews (I know it's contradictory), but when everyone is so against a film it doesn't inspire me to run out and see it. So it took me a week to see this movie. I usually trust people I know who have a record of taste consistent to mine. The average movie-goer doesn't have the same baggage or stake in a films' success as a paid reviewer does. That said, I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend this film to you. Every review I read or heard panned this movie. I have no idea why. I am a big fan of the book and thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation. I give the screenwriter a lot of credit for capturing at least some of the essence of this amusing, strange tale of the new friends a Northern writer met during his time spent in Savannah, Georgia. The joy of the novel was in getting under the skin and into the closets of the residents of this southern city and the film did just that.
The story concentrates on the trial of one of Savannah's most notorious residents, Jim Williams. In real life, Williams was actually tried 4 times for the murder of his young male lover/companion, Billy. In the film, a young journalist comes to Savannah to cover Williams' famous Christmas party and ends up befriending Williams and becoming involved in his trial. Kevin Spacey, who looks amazingly like Williams, is wonderful as always as this smooth, nouveau-riche gentleman who believes he's done nothing wrong even though he killed Billy (Law) in cold-blood. Cusack plays the savvy New-Yorker writer as a bit too incredulous in the beginning (the weird aspects of Savannah really seem to shock him, which should be hard to do considering New York is ground zero for weirdos), but once he settles in, he plays the conscious of the film admirably.
Now one can argue, and one reveiewer did, that Eastwood doesn't balance the film with enough of the "normal" people and society of Savannah, showcasing why Williams crime would be so shocking to them. And that may be true. The scenes where John meets the upper class are short and uneventful, i.e. boring. We are there to be entertained, so the weirdos win. Plus, the normal people are not what the book was about. I was interested in what happened to Williams and that's all that mattered. The film had some truly funny moments, mainly due to the Lady Chablis, who plays "herself" and is the consummate Savannah weirdo.