Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

luke cage

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) works as a sweeper in Pop’s Barber Shop in Harlem.  One night after sweeping up, Luke sees his co-worker Chico (Brian Mac) rush out to a car with his friend Shameek.  (Jermel Howard) Chico and Shameek want to take money from Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, (Mahershala Ali)  owner of a club called Harlem’s Paradise, and infamous gangster.  Luke also works at the club, and Cottonmouth offers him a job, but Luke has a quiet life, does he want to get mixed up in saving Chico from gangsters or being Cottonmoth’s bodyguard?

I like this episode of Luke Cage it has the requisite amount of mystery surrounding Luke.  It has some primarily African American references like the iconic if somewhat hackneyed black barbershop.  Luke has some interesting interactions with the ladies, some interesting black cultural references, Luke is reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. For all the good writing and the social consciousness, there’s a lot of the n-word flying around, I found it excessive.  I know the writers are trying to keep it “real” but Harlem is the epicenter of the black renaissance, let’s try to treat the characters with some respect.

The acting is great.   Mike Colter is very good as the laconic Luke Cage.  Mahershala Ali is a simmering cauldron of rage as Cottonmouth, and Alfre Woodard is also good as a corrupt politician who is all sweetness and light in public, but something else entirely when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Episode 2:  The Code of The Streets

Pop (Frankie Faison) asks Luke to find Chico, but Cottonmouth wants to locate Chico too. The police, headed by Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) also want to find Chico.  Who gets to Chico first?

There is so much in this episode.  The viewers get a backstory about Pop.  There’s an interesting subplot between Misty and Luke.  There is real and largely unspoken tension between Luke and Cottonmouth.  There are the cultural touchpoints, Luke is reading Walter Mosely in this episode, and this episode finally provides the impetus for Luke to get off the sidelines.  The acting is superb, especially between Ali, and Colter, who holds his own in the scenes between him and Ali. There’s also some good chemistry between Colter and Simone Missick.

Episode 3:  Who’s Going to Take The Weight

Luke decides not to go after Cottonmouth directly, but let him suffer death by a thousand cuts.  Cottonmouth and his cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) discuss their differing visions of Harlem. Misty sees that Luke is in the middle of what’s going on lately in Harlem, but she can’t put her finger on what he’s doing. Misty’s partner Detective Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) talks to Chico, he’s ready to turn on Cottonmouth.

This is more an action episode, and not an introspective episode, which is too bad, because I liked the quiet, introspective Cage, and not the action oriented Cage, anyone who watches the series will know why. Domingo Colon is introduced as head of a rival Latino gang, but there’s not much character development thee yet.  There’s a plot twist, but it’s badly written.  If I told you why, I’d spoil the plot. Good acting again by the principles, especially Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Mike Colter, and Frank Whaley. The acting saves a somewhat shaky script in this episode.  The episode is named after an old school rap tune.

Episode 4:  Step In The Arena

As Luke tries to extricate himself and his landlady Connie Lin (Jade Wu) from a precarious position, Luke thinks about a turning point in his life.

This is mostly a flashback episode that fleshes out some of the details referred to in the first episode.  It’s interesting, although it has similarities to other Marvel origin stories. The acting is very good, and the script is interesting, as it leaves many things unexplained.  This episode is named after a Gang Starr album.

Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep

As Cottonmouth extorts small businesses in Harlem, Luke tries to clean up the streets of Harlem.  Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) comes back to Harlem, why is she here?  Cottonmouth and Luke both show up to an important event in Harlem.

This episode had some interesting things going on, a new character, Cottonmouth always plotting, an evolving relationship between Misty and Luke, and lots of lectures from Luke about Harlem’s legacy.

Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards

Detective Scarfe is shot and wounded by Cottonmouth, he escapes.  Now everyone is trying to find Scarfe, Misty is looking for her partner, Cottonmouth is looking is looking to finish the job, and Luke is looking for someone to protect.  Where does Scarfe go?

This is similar to the where’s Chico episode, everyone looking for Scarfe, but who finds him first.  Not sure what Claire Temple’s function is, but she’s immediately Luke’s sidekick.  I’m usually not a fan of Rosario Dawson’s acting, but she and Mike Colter have some easygoing banter.

Episode 7:  Manifest

As Cottonmouth plays the keyboard, he reflects on life with Mama Mabel, (Latanya Richardson Jackson) Uncle Pete (Curtis Cook) and little Maraih. (Megan Miller)  He wonders what could have been, but settles into what is.  Cottonmouth thinks he has a surprise for Luke, but Mariah really has a surprise for Cottonmouth.

Most of this episode was backstory on Cottonmouth and his dysfunctional family.  Let me tell you, they put the diss, in dysfunctional.  And boy oh boy  there is more than one twist in this episode, one that I never saw coming.  And this one was well-written, and well camouflaged.  The scenes with Luke and Cottonmouth sizzle with tension  as the actors try to outdo each other. Alfre Woodard is also very good in this episode.

Episode 8:  Blowin’ Up the Spot

Something happens to Cottonmouth, and Mariah blames Luke.  Misty wants to talk to Luke, but Claire is hiding him.  Luke has a new enemy, Willis “Diamondback” Stryker. (Erik Le Ray)  What’s his problem with Luke?

For a show that started out with such high minded ideals, this show has devolved into a show with lots of shooting, killing and violence.  They’ve turned Alfre Woodard into some kind of character from Empire.  Claire doesn’t really have a well-defined role, again, the viewer has to guess what she does and where she fits in.  I’m disappointed because this show had great potential, and it seems to be jumping the shark with five episodes to go in season 1.

Episode 9:  DWYCK

Claire takes Luke to visit an old acquaintance.  Misty gets interrogated by a department psychologist.  Diamondback consolidates Cottonmouth’s empire, with Mariah’s help.

I actually like the Misty interrogation, but the Claire Luke storyline is getting utterly ridiculous, and the intensity and quality of the acting has gone way down.  The writers are featuring Diamondback, Shades and Mariah, now and Luke and Claire, but Luke and Misty have the best chemistry.  The writers should pair Misty and Luke in more episodes, but I fear the series is too far gone.

Episode 10:  Take it Personal

Diamondback and Mariah plan to get a new ammunition to cops.  Luke learns more about Reva’s past.  He also learns more about Diamondback’s past.  Police get rough in their search for Luke, who is framed for killing a cop.  Misty is in danger as she enters Harlem’s Paradise.

I liked  the backstory on Reva and Diamondback, but the actor playing Diamondback is no Maharshela Ali.

Episode 11:  Now You’re Mine

Diamondback takes hostages inside Harlem’s Paradise, including Misty, Claire, and Candace (Deborah Ayoridnde) who may have evidence to clear Luke of one of the crimes he’s accused of.  Does Luke save the day?  Or will police capture him?

This was an interesting episode, for the first time in a long time, I cared about what happened to these characters.  Claire and Misty are developing a rivalry and that is also interesting.

Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos

After Misty survives being shot inside Harlem’s Paradise, police arrest Luke.  He escapes and tries to find Diamondback.  Domingo, (Jacob Vargas) head of the Latin gang, is looking for Diamondback, to take back control of gun running from him.  Shades is bailed out by Diamondback, only to have his life threatened by Diamondback, so he and Mariah contact Luke with an offer to take out Diamondback, but before they can act, Diamondback shows up to Pop’s and challenges Luke mano a mano.

Here is the episode leading up to the climactic finale, I like that it was pretty much a Claire free episode, Misty is a much more interesting character, and I’m glad they’re getting her involved right in the middle of things.  Diamondback is not the villain I preferred, but he’s the villain I was given, so here goes nothing.  Let’s see what happens.

Episode 13:  You Know My Steez

The epic showdown between Luke and Diamondback ensues, but what happens next?

The epic showdown wasn’t so epic, and the other main characters squeeze through enough loopholes to ensure a second season. One of those loopholes is especially badly written, and at times this episode is edited like a Best Of Luke Cage episode.  Disappointing.

 

Overall, I’d say for the first 7 episodes, Luke Cage was a very sharp, well-written, intelligent series.  The acting is vibrant filled with intensity Mahershela Ali is the best actor in this cast and he brought everyone’s skill level up with him.  The scenes with him and Mike Colter crackle with excitement.  The writing was good filled with references about black writers, and lifting Harlem up.

After episode 7, the acting suffered, after an initial good impression, Rosario Dawson became nothing more than a love interest, and good actors like Frank Whaley are limited in their roles.  Even a great actress like Alfre Woodard was hamstrung by writing that turned up the violence, and turned Woodard into an Empire esque character.  I liked Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight, but they de-emphasized her role to bring in Claire Temple, bad move.  Missick and Colter had great chemistry.  And the writers of the comic book gave Misty a lousy power, I can’t even figure out what her power is by watching the show.

The writers also forgot all the cultural touchpoints of Harlem, and Luke Cage just became another conventional show.  Too bad, it had so much potential to be a groundbreaking show and it took the easy way out. The finale was the final chance for this show to redeem itself, and it did not.

Luke Cage:  Boxed itself in.

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Beatriz At Dinner

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a massage therapist and aroma therapist in California.  She visits one of her wealthy clients named Kathy (Connie Britton) to give her a massage. Kathy is having dinner prepared for her husband Grant’s (David Warshovsky) boss, Doug Strutt (John Lithgow) a wealthy global land developer, with an infamous reputation.  Unfortunately, Beatriz’s car breaks down, and she can’t go home until her friend can fix the car, so Kathy invites Beatriz to stay for dinner, she reluctantly agrees to stay.  Immediately, Beatriz feels out of place with Kathy’s friends, the women talk about the foibles of the latest reality show star, and her leaked video, and the men drink, smoke, and talk about business.  Awkwardness turns to tension when Beatriz and Doug sit down and have dinner, and Doug questions Beatriz’s immigration status, and Beatriz enquires about if Doug was involved in a development in her hometown in Mexico.  But Beatriz loses her cool when she finds out that Doug has killed a rhino during a safari.  She yells at Doug and throws his smartphone at him.  Kathy requests that Beatriz go upstairs and take a nap.  Instead, Beatriz does a Google search on Doug Strutt, and finds out a lot more than she expects. She comes back down and says she wants to perform a song, but does she have something else in mind?

I really wanted to like Beatriz at Dinner, but the script had too many issues. What the script does well is show the awkwardness between people of different classes, ethnicities, and social strata.  But it does most things very badly.  The story hinges on Beatriz not having a ride home, apparently no one in the film has heard of Uber.  The characters are mostly caricatures, with no connection to real life people, the rich guests are only interested in increasing their material well-being, and Beatriz is a saint, who feels the pain of every living thing.  For such a cutting edge story, the gender roles are disappointingly conventional, the women gossip, while the men talk business, and they are separated by gender, until the dinner.  There is a false ending, and then a real ending, which is worse than the false ending.  The writer is so eager to make a political statement about the current state of American politics that they forgot about character development and writing a story that people would care about.

John Lithgow plays a character with obvious similarities to our current President, but as hard as Lithgow tries to humanize Doug Strutt, the writing makes Strutt a cartoonish oaf.  He doesn’t have or show any empathy or even a simple connection to another human being. Salma Hayek is a good actress, she de-emphasized her beauty for this role, as in Frida, but Beatriz is too good to be true.  She’s a holistic healer who feels the pain of her animals and in all things from nature.  Now outside of California, no one knows what a holistic healer is, never mind being able to relate to who she is, and what she’s going through. The only thing Beatriz doesn’t do is walk on water.  If the writer gave her some flaws, she would be more interesting and more relatable. Salma Hayek pours a lot of emotion into the role, but she is boxed in by bad writing, and isn’t allowed to explore the full dramatic arc of the character. The rest of the actors have even less material on which to build their characters.

The direction is a mixed bag.  Miguel Arteta definitely has an eye for visual direction, there are some beautiful shots of the Mexican waterways, but the pacing of this movie is painfully slow.  This movie is less than an hour and a half long, but it seems much longer.  The performances are ok,  but I don’t know that Lithgow or Hayek need to have their performances shaped by any director.

Beatriz At Dinner:  Lots of sizzle, very little steak.

a monster calls

Conor (Max Golds, Lewis MacDougall) is a 12 year-old  boy with a lot to cope with, he is haunted by nightmares, victimized  by bullies, who beat him up every day in school, and traumatized by his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness.  His father (Toby Kebbell) has divorced his mom and lives in America.  Conor doesn’t want to live with his grandmother (Sigorney Weaver) who is a strict disciplinarian .One day, in the midst of all his troubles, Conor sees a giant, tree-shaped monster(Liam Neesen)  in his backyard. The monster proceeds to tell Connor three stories and demands one from Conor.  The first one is about a king, his young wife, and the king’s grandson. A second story about an apothecary, and a priest, the third one is about an invisible man, who yearns to be seen.  What do these stories mean?  What story does the monster demand from Conor?

A Monster Calls is one of the most emotionally honest movies I’ve seen in a long time.  There are no easy answers in the problems that Conor faces, his grandmother is not sweet and loving, Instead, she is is all rough edges and sharp elbows.  His father comes and goes like a distant memory, and the monster who would make everything better if this was a conventional story, only serves to muddy the waters.  There is real compassion coming from Conor’s mother, but she is slowly slipping away from him, so what is Conor to do?  The story that Conor tells the monster holds the key to this movie, and the answer doesn’t shrink at all from its honesty, and that’s what makes this movie so rewarding in the end.  It sugarcoats nothing, and that is rare in a Hollywood film.

The acting is superb. Lewis Mac Dougal conveys so much emotion in this movie, anger, sorrow, regret, pain, these are difficult emotions for an adult to convey convincingly, young McDougal does an outstanding job.  Conor is also not an especially likeable character, but McDougal makes him sympathetic. Felicity Jones is also outstanding, she tries to be a constant source of love and support for her son, but she is also vulnerable because of her illness, it’s a tough balance to maintain, being strong and vulnerable, but Jones pulls it off.  Liam Neeson does another laudable job as the Monster, he is stern with Conor, but also tender when Conor needs some understanding. Sigourney Weaver plays a hard-edged grandmother, she has no time for tenderness, her daughter is dying, and she needs to express the urgency of those feelings to her grandson.  Weaver is also not playing a likeable character, but she makes the audience understand why she is the way she is.

The direction is visually captivating, not in the way it portrays London because London is always portrayed as gray and dank.  It is stunning because of the way J.A. Bayona seamlessly integrates the Monster’s stories, which are animated, with the live action, so the story never loses its sense of continuity.  The Monster also seems natural, despite his enormous size, because the Monster as Deus Ex Machina is used sparingly in the plot, and only as necessary.  Bayona also gets excellent performances from the cast, especially Lewis MacDougal, it’s not always easy to get a good performance from a young actor, but Bayona brought the best out in MacDougal.  Neeson and Weaver.

A Monster Calls:  Say hello to intelligent moviemaking.

The Zookeeper's Wife

Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenberg) and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) run a zoo in Warsaw Poland. In the summer of 1939, just before the German blitzkrieg, they befriend a German zookeeper named  Lutz Heck. (Daniel Bruhl)  After the Germans take over Poland, Jan and Antonina decided to stay in Poland and Lutz, now a Nazi officer, makes them an offer to breed their best stock in a zoo in Germany.  The couple accepts the offer, and also an offer by Lutz to breed an extinct species of cattle called aurochs, from modern day bison in the Warsaw Zoo.  Johan wants to breed pigs to feed the German troops guarding the zoo, and Lutz accepts the offer.  But the pig-breeding is just a smokescreen to allow Jan to smuggle Jewish men women and children out of Poland during the height of the war.  Antonina is initially hesitant, but she is won over when she sees the brutal condition of the children Jan rescues from the Warsaw Ghetto.  Does Lutz Heck ever find out the true nature of what’s going on at the zoo?

The Zookeeper’s Wife may not be as gripping a story as Schindler’s List or Judgement at Nuremberg, but it’s a far more personal story, and in that way it makes it a more intriguing story in some ways, than the more well-known stories.   Jan and Antonina were ordinary people, they weren’t a famous industrialist or member of a military tribunal, they saw society starting to turn evil before their eyes, and they did something, at great risk to their own lives.  Depictions of Jews wearing armbands and being segregated for their faith into ghettos, and finally being “resettled” to the death camps in Poland like Auschwitz and Treblinka are always riveting and heartbreaking, and this movie is no exception.  But the writers exaggerated the advances that Heck made toward Antonina, and that is a mistake, the story itself is dramatic enough, it needs no embellishment.

The performances are very good.  I love Jessica Chastain, and although she struggles with the Polish accent, she gets the right tone for Antonina, somewhere between sorrow and desperation, and giving the character the courage to help those in need. The best acting job in the film was not from Chastain however, the best performance in the film is by Johan Heldenberg, as Jan.  He balances his concerns for the fate of the Jews in Poland with concerns about the health of his marriage. Heldenberg gives a complex performance, Jan is sensitive yet strong.  Daniel Bruhl overdoes the evil Nazi routine with his portrayal of Lutz Heck, but Heck was interested in genetics, and that in the context of Mengele’s experiments on Jews, is evil.

The direction is ok, the pacing is good, but this is a somewhat sanitized view of the Holocaust, there’s not much evidence of the Nazis’ brutality, a lot of the brutality is inferred, which is dangerous, because the assumption made is that everyone watching this movie knows about the Holocaust, and with each passing generation, that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A powerful story despite not visualizing Nazi atrocities.

the circle

Mae (Emma Watson) works as a customer service representative in a small company, when her friend Annie, (Karen Gillian) gets her an interview at the Circle, one of the most famous tech companies in San Francisco.  She aces the interview and starts work in the customer experience area.  Mae goes home her first weekend to take care of her father, Vinnie (Bill Paxon) who has MS.  That absence on the weekend earns Mae a visit from Renata (Ellen Wong) and Matt (Amir Talal) asking Mae to fill out her personal social media page, and attend more company parties.  Eager to move up in the company, Mae does just that, at one of these parties she meets Ty (John Boyega) inventor of True You, the social media arm of The Circle.  They talk for a while and then she goes back to her residence at the campus of the Circle.   Mae is now fully devoted to her life at The Circle, she video conferences her parents, and hardly sees her childhood friend, Mercer (Eller Coltraine) who now works as a carpenter, and makes handmade chandeliers.   In an attempt to help Mercer, Mae shares a picture of a chandelier that Mercer made for Mae’s mom, but the picture causes a social media backlash, and people label Mercer a deer killer, and he disappears.

While attending another party, Ty takes Mae to a hidden part of The Circle, where the executives keep files of everyone in The Circle and friends and enemies alike. Mae is clearly disturbed by the secrets that the executives are keeping, and by Mercer’s disappearance, she goes kayaking to clear her mind, but she experiences some rough waters and almost drowns  if not for the underwater cameras in San Francisco Bay.  After this traumatic event, and meeting the CEO of The Circle, Mr. Bailey (Tom Hanks) Mae decides to go transparent, having every aspect of her life documented on video.  Not only that but Mae also starts work on the Soul Search software program, which can find fugitives from justice or lost loves in record time.  The Soul Search finds a criminal in under 20 minutes.  The next search is for Mae’s friend, Mercer.  How does that search end up?

Imagine if Google, Amazon, Apple and Go Pro all merged and imagine what the resulting technology conglomerate would look like?  That’s what this movie imagines.  The Circle is very good at identifying  the dark side of social media, the complete lack of privacy, the cyberbullying, the group think, even the vigilantism possible with social media.  Further it explores work life balance issues at a tech company, and how much of an employee’s life belongs to the company.  The Circle as a company feels almost cult-like.  But the story becomes derivative of the Truman show, when Mae straps on a camera, and it makes Mae much dumber than she should be,  and then turns her into a victim of her own success.  The growth of the Circle’s social media software seems a little too quick to be realistic, but there are still many thought provoking ideas in this movie.  The critics panned it, but for the most part, despite some flaws, this is an interesting story.

The acting is very good.  Emma Watson is very convincing as a naïve girl, who joins a tech company, and quickly learns how much of her time belongs to the company.  The writers make her a little dumber than she should be but Watson fights through bad writing and makes the character strong, yet vulnerable.Tom Hanks does a great job playing a lovable Bill Gates type, people forget how ruthless Microsoft was in creating a monopoly for its products, but that’s how Hanks plays Bailey, all sunshine and rainbows on the outside, and ruthlessly controlling on the inside. The writers definitely did John Boyega a disservice by making his role so small, and making his character a shadowy person.  He should have been much better defined and had a bigger role. Patton Oswalt was also very good as the sinister scheming co-founder of the circle.  Oswalt is a comedian, who shows surprising range in this role.

There is nothing visually noteworthy about the direction, but the pacing is good and the story moves briskly, to a somewhat satisfactory conclusion.  James Ponsoldt hasn’t directed anything of note, but he wrote the screenplay and adapted it from the books of the same name.

The Circle:  Tom Hankering to control all of us.

 

Beguiled

John McBurney (Clint Eastwood) is a Colonel in the Union army.  He’s been shot and is losing a lot of blood.  McB is found by 12 year old Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin) who takes him to a Confederate Girls’ School, run by a woman named Martha.  (Geraldine Page)  Martha plans to make him well and turn him over to the Confederate troops patrolling the area immediately, but McBurney has a plan, he starts to ingratiate himself to all the women in the house, including Amy, a house slave named Hallie, (Mae Mercer) a teacher in the school, Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman) a 17 year old “hussy” named Carol, (JoAnn Harris) and Martha.  Martha has been deserted by her brother, Hallie responds to McBurney’s promise to find her boyfriend, Edwina has never been with a man, Amy is just starting to notice men, and Carol just wants another man to sleep with.  McBurney seems to know what button to push with each woman, but he overindulges his cravings, and Carol sees him seducing Edwina, and gets angry, how does she plan to get revenge on McBurney?  Can he keep fooling these needy women?

This is a strange movie, and a far cry from Eastwood’s Dirty Harry persona, or maybe it isn’t.  This is a revenge fantasy, but who’s getting the revenge and who gets the last laugh?  It seems to me that this story is told from the man’s point of view, and the man seems to be a chauvinist.  His first objective is survival, then McBurney wants pleasure and he doesn’t really care who gives it to him.  The women all seem to have man issues, there’s not one self-actualized one in the bunch.  The storyline is a bit redundant after a while, and the strangeness, including a very strange dream sequence,  threatens to derail the plot, but it’s still fun to see who is left standing at the end.  Call it a guilty pleasure. It’s like a Tarantino movie, with a lot less violence.

This is a departure for Clint Eastwood, he doesn’t always play the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, in fact his films are known for their lack of female roles.  But since he can’t fight his way out of this situation or shoot his way out, he has to try to charm his way out.  It’s a macho role, just a different kind of macho role.  Geraldine Page is good as Martha, the founder of the school, with a lot of baggage, and some mighty strange baggage it is.  Page still plays the role as a prim and proper Southern schoolmarm, who keeps her desires locked away.  The rest of the women are stereotypes. Mae Mercer is the “sassy” slave.  Edwina is the virginal ideal woman of that era, Carol is jaded despite her young age, and Amy is the little girl, just starting to experience womanhood.  None of the women in these roles are good enough to make their badly written roles convincing, except for perhaps Elizabeth Hartman as Edwina.  The acting from the supporting cast is not great, the script reads like a Southern soap opera, and that ultimately leads to the downfall of the film.

Not to be outdone, Don Sigel, who directed Dirty Harry overdoes the visuals, the camera spins and reels, like a dizzy schoolgirl, and the effect is claustrophobic and nauseating.  Siegel directs this movie as if it was some kind of Victorian Gothic novel, like Jane Eyre, but this is a trashy low rent Jane Eyre, complete with creepy music from Lalo Schiffrin who’s done some good stuff like Cool Hand Luke and Bullitt, but this music seemed to intrude on the movie and not enhance it. The pacing of the film is slow, the performances are not that great, and it limps to an ending.

The Beguiled:  Eastwood goes South, in more ways than one.

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In 1957, Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) told her boyfriend, Richard Loving  (Joel Edgerton) that she was pregnant.  Mildred was black and Native American, and Richard was white.  In 1958, they went to Washington DC to get married.  When they came back home to Virginia to live together as man and wife, they were arrested, because of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws.  The couple moves to DC, but decides to have their child in Virginia, again facing jail time for coming to Virginia together.  So, they move back to DC, and live there.  Mildred becomes more aware of the Civil Rights movement while living in DC, and writes a letter to Robert Kennedy to ask him to look into her case.  Kennedy passes the letter to an ACLU lawyer, named Bernie Cohen  (Nick Kroll) who along with Phil Hirschkop  (Jon Bass) take the case to the Supreme Court.  Do they win?

Loving V. Virginia is one of the most important civil rights cases in legal history. But the movie Loving lacks the intensity or gravity to make the story compelling.  I find it amazing that nobody on either side of the racial divide seemed to raise any objection to the nuptials. This story takes place in Virginia, home of the capital of the Confederacy, the couple marries in 1958, before the Civil Rights movement starts in earnest, and the only people that seem to object are members of the state government.  Loving’s mother raises the slightest objection, but it’s so politely stated, that the viewer might miss it. There is one scene where Richard senses a threat to himself, but nothing comes of it. This movie covers the high points of the story, but does it so blithely, and unemotionally, that all historical and legal import is lost.  The writer seems to soft-peddle the virulent racism of the time period in order to appeal to a 2016 audience’s sensibilities.  By doing so, the movie does a disservice to all who fought and died for Civil Rights and equal rights. The Supreme Court case, which is historic, is treated almost as an afterthought.  This could have been a great movie, but it’s not even a good movie.

Joel Edgerton plays Richard Loving as a laconic guy, maybe he didn’t speak a lot, but the quiet performance doesn’t make the movie any more interesting to watch.  Ruth Negga gives Mildred a little more of an edge, even though she is soft-spoken, and her cadence is slow, she clearly sees an injustice in her life and wants to correct it.  These two performances were central to the film, so it was vital that Negga and Edgerton have chemistry onscreen and they do.

Jeff Nichols wrote and directed the movie and while his script treads lightly on racism, the visual aspect of his direction seems to concentrate on the rural landscape of Virginia, there is even a closeup of a grasshopper at one point.  The pacing is too slow, 2 hours seems like 4 hours, and the portrait of the Lovings is too intimate, the story never broadens to address the larger implications of the case or even the threats they faced for bringing the case.  By keeping the scope narrow, director and writer Nicolls misses the point.  He does get good performances from Negga and Edgerton, that is the saving grace of this film.

June 12th was Loving Day, I hope you spent it with someone you love, watching another movie.

Loving.  Not much to love.