Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Day 39: American Violet (2008)
PG-13, 1 hr. 53 min. Directed by: Tim Disney. Release Date: April 17, 2009 DVD. Release Date: October 13, 2009.
I'll be honest. I found this heavy-handed, but still compelling. Other than Charles Dutton and Michael O'Keefe, there are only a few familiar faces, but I felt that the actors all did fair jobs with their parts. Much better, in fact, than I would have expected from a cast filled with people I'd never heard of or seen before… but then, to be fair, half the actors I have heard of or have seen before can't act their way out of a wet paper sack half the time, so I guess that's not really a good measure to judge an actor. I found this to be raw and real even though this in no way resembles my own reality. There was a bit of grittiness here that contrasts sharply with the "American heartland setting" and the film made me sad to realize how recently the events that inspired this film had happened. This wasn't happening before the Civil Rights Movement or in the early decades of the 20th Century. It was happening only a few years ago.
The politics and sensibilities of this movie are worn proudly on its sleeve, which admittedly lends a bit of preachiness to the tale, but I'll forgive that because the theme is worth a bit of righteous indignation. The story starts a little slow, but it didn't take overly long for me to get drawn in and to feel the slow stirring of my own moral outrage building. I had a similar reaction to Pursuit of Happyness. No one person should have that much stacked against them, whether through act of deity or their fellow man. Even worse was watching how many people on the periphery of Dee Robinson's life took advantage of her circumstances. It was sick, but I couldn't stop watching. Like The Jerry Springer Show.
If you're white and from Texas, you might find this film's portrayal of all its white characters a bit insulting. They painted with a pretty wide brush here, giving every Caucasian some combination of what I call the "fat good ole boy" persona and some Foghorn Leghorn-like elements. I was astounded by the legal tactics depicted and I had to wonder how much of this movie was based off of real life situations and how much was created just to emphasize how poorly the Texas judiciary was checking itself, because if there's truth here, someone needs to be paying more attention to small towns in Texas. I may not be a lawyer, but I've seen one on TV, and I know what was being done there in the name of justice isn't right.
This was a great story, but I needed a bit of an emotional pick-me-up afterwards. American Violet was heavy viewing. What surprised me was the ending, which focused less on racial aspects of the story and spent a goodly amount of energy on denouncing the plea bargaining system.