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   MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (1997) 

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CAST
Kevin Spacey
John Cusack
Allison Eastwood
Jude Law
Lady Chablis
Jack Thompson
Irma P. Hall

DIRECTED BY
Clint Eastwood

PURCHASE


DVD



Novel




Time: 135 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Crime


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.


"I'm what they call "nouveau riche," but then, it's only the "riche" that counts.""

The only novels that are easily rendered to film are those written by Michael Crichton and I don't really think we need to see any more of those. Adaptations are tricky and I think Eastwood did a great job. His style is always smooth and unobtrusive, settling in on the characters which should be the most important thing in any film, but are often forgotten or pushed aside for special effects. He couldn't include everything, so he chose the most memorable or funny aspects of the story. Who can blame him? They're delicious.

As a huge fan of the book, I was pleasantly surprised and left the theater happy. Was it the best movie ever, or even Eastwood's best? No, but at least it was a story for adults with an actual plot and interesting dialogue. If you liked the story and just have to know more or haven't read the book, I suggest you run right out and buy it today. It's more than worth it. However, if you don't want to spend the time, the film is just as entertaining and will give you a tiny peek into this insular world.





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