Monty Wildhorn, an alcoholic novelist of Westerns, has lost his drive. His nephew pushes him to summer in quiet Belle Isle. He begrudgingly befriends a newly single mom and her 3 girls who help him find the inspiration to write again.
Ghosts of Mississippi is a drama covering the final trial of Byron De La Beckwith (Woods), the assassin of the 1960s civil rights leader Medgar Evers. It begins with the murder and the events surrounding the two initial trials which both ended in hung juries. The movie then covers District Attorney, Bobby De Laughter's (Baldwin) transformation and alliance with Myrlie Evers (Goldberg), the widow of Medgar Evers, as he becomes more involved with bringing Beckwith to trial for the third time 30 years later. Some of the characters are played by the actual participants in this story. Written by
Joel Schesser <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Medgar Evers' tragic murder in Jackson, Mississippi, was overshadowed by the cold-blooded killing of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Mississippi, a year later. So too this film has been overshadowed by an earlier movie, "Mississippi Burning," about the Philadelphia homicides. I was even confused by the similar titles and accidentally rented "Ghosts of Mississippi," thinking it to be the earlier film. This is too bad because "Ghosts of Mississippi" is a winner all the way and Medgar Evers' assassination was as significant, if not more so, than the later dastardly acts of hate and malevolence.
Most of my generation remember one of Dylan's early recordings he wrote called "Pawn in the Game" about the Medgar Evers murder in which Dylan asserts that the coward who pulled the trigger and shot the civil rights leader in the back in front of his wife and three children was carrying out what the racist elements in Mississippi and in the nation as a whole had brainwashed the simple mind into executing. That the endemic racism in American was the real perpetrator of the heinous deed which deprived our society of one of its gifted leaders. "Ghosts of Mississippi" concentrates more on the scumbag who squeezed the trigger, played with élan by James Woods, almost a carbon copy of the killer in both speech, mannerisms, and looks.
James Woods is a member of a strong cast led by Whoopi Goldberg as the widow, Myrlie Evers, spending her life seeking a degree of justice for her husband and children. William H. Macy adds much needed humor in the role of Charlie Crisco, a member of the prosecution team. Unfortunately, his part is mainly limited to the middle section of the movie. Why director Rob Reiner and writer Lewis Colick decided to turn Macy's character into a cameo during the latter part of the film is unclear.
A subplot in the film is the growing involvement of prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin) in the case, opening his eyes not only to the past evils of the society in which he lives but also hostile residue left by the civil rights movement in the state. Married to the daughter of one of Mississippi's most racist judges causes him to be blind to much of the injustice prevalent around him. Significantly, his wife is named Dixie (Virginia Madsen). The change that takes place in his character (which also involves a change in wives) as he is drawn deeper into the thirty-year-old case is pinpointed by his inability to continue to sing "Dixie" to his daughter to chase away the ghosts she sees at night. In explaining to her that the song might actually be encouraging the ghosts to reappear in her bedroom, the two opt for "Old McDonald" as a more suitable goodnight song.
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