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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 Andrew Hicks
3½ stars out of 4

Clint Eastwood, in his ripe old age, is cashing one talent in for another. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL is an Eastwood-directed film Clint isn't even in, and it's damn good. Adapted from a best-selling John Berendt novel based on true events, this movie is set in the bizarre Georgia town of Savannah, where people walk invisible dogs and attach horseflies to their head. And that's just the mayor.

As director and producer, Eastwood contributes a self- indulgent but very competent 150 minutes, neatly balancing drama, suspense and humor. Like all great movies, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN has a lot of funny moments that spring from the characters themselves, and not from some contrived, juvenile intrusion. The acting, from big-time stars John Cusack and Kevin Spacey, is as good as you'd expect, but it's the supporting stable that gives the movie its offbeat charm.

Cusack plays a free-lance reporter sent to Savannah to write a fluff story for Town & Country magazine about one of eccentric millionaire Spacey's parties. Lots of food, beverages and gunplay. Yes, an employee of Spacey's has a huge argument in front of Cusack and later turns up dead. It seems like a simple matter of self- defense -- the guy threatened Spacey, shot at him, missed, then Spacey took him out -- but being a movie, there's much more to it than that, and Cusack decides to stay in town and write a book about the murder, a book which will eventually become a movie he will star in. The weird circle of entertainment.

This is where the stable of supporting characters comes in. There's the requisite sexy woman (Alison "Nepotist's Daughter" Eastwood), the strange piano player, the voodoo woman and the transvestite. Miss Chablis deserves a paragraph of his/her own, as the stealer of every scene she appears in -- what would this movie be without the Castilian scene and her testimony? Chablis, playing herself, is five times funnier than reigning drag queen RuPaul, but never seems exploited as the movie's comic relief or out of place in a basically serious movie.

There are also a fair share of courtroom scenes, which these days almost never seem welcome in a movie, but even here Clint manages to keep the movie fascinating. Certainly the characterizations of the judge and Spacey's lawyer both help immensely, as does having the fly-guy as the jury's foreman. It's here we realize the case boils down to an indictment of Spacey's homosexuality. Yes, Spacey had a sexual relationship with the dead man -- before he shot him, of course.

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL isn't a classic, but it is one of the better celebrity-directed, true-story best-seller adaptations out there. Likewise, no one from this movie will be getting any Oscar nominations, but the performances are all great. In fact, I'd almost recommend that the Academy add a Best Supporting Transvestite category.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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