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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Starring: Kevin Spacey, John Cusack
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rated: R
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Tim Black, Lady Chablis, Doug Dearth, Alison Eastwood, Irma P. Hall, Anne Haney, Kevin Harry, Paul Hipp, Jude Law

Review by Walter Frith
2 stars out of 4

In its running time of 153 minutes, I'm sure there is a fairly decent movie contained within 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'. The problem is that it has so many plodding scenes of irrelevancy that it makes it difficult to appreciate the film fully. Beginning in Savannah, Georgia in 1981, it looks at southern culture, not stereotypes as some may think and has a broad range of characters like the title suggests. Some good, some evil and some whose intentions remain unclear by the end of the film. It makes no secret of the fact that at its core it is not just a morality tale but first and above all else it is a character study.

John Berendt's novel is now a big screen motion picture directed by the master of drawn out film making, Clint Eastwood. Don't misunderstand, I love Eastwood as much as the next person but in almost every one of his films where he serves as director, there is a need to tighten up his film's midsection badly. It looks as if Eastwood feels it is necessary to show an audience every single frame of his films and doesn't know what to leave on the cutting room floor.

John Cusack is a writer for a New York City magazine who travels to Savannah to write an article on the town's high society while attending a party held by a dapper southern gentleman (Kevin Spacey). He mingles, mixes and observes the people in their genuine surroundings in perfect fashion and comes to the conclusion that he will write a book instead. He comes to this conclusion after leaving the party and heading back to the scene later when police and emergency vehicles surround Spacey's mansion and question the party's host about the shooting of a man with whom Spacey has had an unsuccessful confrontation about personal affairs.

Involved in Cusack's life before, during and after the murder trail that follows are a young southern belle played by Alison Eastwood (Clint's daughter), the town's transvestite (Lady Chablis) and a symbolic character named Minerva (the wonderful Irma P. Hall) who is a voodoo worshipper and tries to foretell spiritual clashes between this world and the next as the film digests its plot line with an outcome debating whether or not justice was done while mixing in religious overtones and shades of satire at the same time.

In summing up the film best it would be appropriate to say that it is painfully slow at times and has many scenes of dialogue not very interesting to the film's central focus but after seeing the whole thing you'll find that the film packs a peculiar power despite its shortcomings. I'm just not sure you would want to sit through it a second time.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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