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To Kill a Mockingbird

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham
Director: Robert Mulligan
Rated: NR
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: December 1962
Genres: Drama, Classic

*Also starring: Phillip Alford, John Megna, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy, Paul Fix, Collin Wilcox

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1.  Brian Koller review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is an interesting character study, with a thoughtful script. While its treatment of racism is somewhat heavy-handed and simplistic, the film is well cast and is redeemed by excellent performances.

Based on the semi-autographical bestseller by Harper Lee (her only novel), the story is set in a sleepy rural Alabama town during the Great Depression. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) defends a black man (Brock Peters) unjustly accused of raping a disturbed white woman (Collin Wilcox). Finch is a widower with two young children, Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford). The children are fascinated with reclusive, possibly retarted neighbor Boo Radley (Robert Duvall, in his film debut).

Peck's character is similar to his in "Gentleman's Agreement", an even better film which had him battling prejudice against Jews. In that film, he was also a widower and a parent, and was willing to tackle an unpopular cause because it was the right thing to do. There is also an element of "Cape Fear", where he had to protect his family from a sinister bogeyman (there, Robert Mitchum, here, James Anderson).

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is told from the perspective of Scout, whose character represents the author. Taking the focus partly off Peck lightens the film, and the scenes of the children playing are effective.

Still, the film isn't perfect. Peck is confronted by the tamest lynch mob in film history. Other than a welcome burst of anger from Peck's maid (Estelle Evans), the black characters are relentlessly noble and gentle. Atticus Finch also seems misplaced in the small town, and perhaps his character is too close to walking on water.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Mulligan), Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein), Best B/W Cinematography (Russell Harlan). Peck won Best Actor, and Horton Foote won for his adapted screenplay. It was Peck's only Oscar, following four losing nominations, including "Gentleman's Agreement".

Copyright 1996 Brian Koller

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