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Beloved is one of the best movies of the last decade. I have read many, many reviews which seem to have been written by those who have little to no idea of just how complex and difficult Toni Morrison's original novel can be. Of course Beloved (the movie) will be long, and of course it will be emotionally draining and even confusing - the book was! That said, I loved the novel and the film version of it, which follows the original material almost verbatim. (To try and change the story would be to tamper needlessly with a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning book). I am no Oprah nut but she obviously had a deep respect and understanding for the story, which is evident in her surprisingly understated acting. Thandie Newton was simply amazing; I am glad I watched the film if for nothing else than the chance to see her performance (which, to be honest, has helped a key facet of the book make sense for me). The production design is flawless, and, as always, Jonathan Demme proves he's more than above average as a director. If you like pulp trash and want your movies dumb, loud, and shallow, avoid the movie version of Beloved. But if you're looking for a magnificently acted and gorgeously produced film, see this movie the first chance you get. I'm very glad I did.
I read Beloved in an intro English course and it took me a long while
get used to Toni Morrison's writing style. She once said in an interview
that she wrote the book to be disorienting, in some ways to re-enact the
feeling of the slave diaspora.
I thought the book heart-wrenching, at times gut-wrenching, and vivid. The character of Paul D never made much sense, seeming like a man waiting for something to happen, but Sethe burned off the page. What I remember most is Baby Suggs' speech at the rock, which the film has divided into three segments.
I projected Beloved for the college theater and I have to say it was long and arduous, especially if you haven't read the novel. There is no SENSE to the PAIN that goes on with these characters; in Braveheart and Titanic, we have a certain tragic pleasure in mass death or torture that we can't receive from Beloved. I read a lot of comments talking about the ghost in Beloved, but the ghost is more of a catalyst for looking into the characters than the star of the film.
I admired the time put in most. It just seemed like Demme and Tak Fujimoto, and the lighting designer as well, gave the actors the time they needed to act and sink into things: unlike traditional MTV-editing, some scenes were comprised of only one shot, usually tracking, as Paul D and Sethe in the cornfield. The score was brilliant; Portman really found a grace in stillness and the trembling African voice and the flute. It was bare but riveting at the same time.
People have said that the film went for too much shock value. That's possible- did we need the close-up of the dead child at the breast? No. But then again when we read it in the book, don't we think of it? Don't we for a split second see that image in our heads? I for one thought of much more graphic things when Morrison discussed Paul D and Beloved's night in the shed. The camera and the actors treat the world of Beloved and the audience with respect. Winfrey does seem more like someone who loves Sethe's character, than Sethe herself, but she did it for me. The sadness, the strength, emptiness, she did it, and Lisa Gay Hamilton as the young Sethe was riveting with her time in the film. The look in her eyes when Schoolteacher says "Animal" is amazing.
Danny Glover always does a good job, but he didn't really amaze me. For me, you know what you're getting with Glover, nice guy, troubled soul, easy-going with fits of rage every now and then. It's what he likes to play, and he does it well here but no surprises. The surprises are Winfrey, and Kimberly Elise especially in those crucial minutes when she decides to leave home, the fear and determination on her face. (She somehow becomes more sexual by the end of the film when she sees Paul D.) Thandie Newton is incredibly freaky and disgusting as Beloved with the exception of that ONE long gaze she gives Danny Glover that night, seduction, perfect symmetry. And Beah Richards as Baby Suggs: I wanted her to be my mother. She broke my heart with her religion: "This is the prize. This is the prize." The preaching scenes are INCREDIBLE in this film, especially since Tak Fujimoto chooses a circular tracking shot that allows them to do it all at once.
There isn't much redemption at the end. Sethe is drained and miserable. Paul D is on his own but still not totally free. I think Roger Ebert's comment put it best: the happy ending of Beloved is that the ordeal is OVER. There is no sense to the pain, but one hopes at the end that there can be healing.
I loved this film. I loved the fact that it's not hammering any one message home, but you can take things about motherhood, race, brutality, the dangers of love and commitment, freedom, and chains out with you: it's all there. And it is as beautiful as it is wrenching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I fail to realize why people are giving the movie bad reviews. I think people were expecting another Color Purple. Well I think a damn good movie was made and the people who didn't like it just didn't understand. The movie is not hard to understand. Oprah was a slave who had gained freedom; then one day the people tried to take her kids away to slavery. Oprah didn't want that so she attempt to kill them. One thing that really set the plot to the movie is one died and came back as a ghost. Many people are also talking bad about Thandie's part, but she was a ghost who was 2 years old in the body of a 20yr old. She came back and only wanted her mother. Beloved set a spell on Paul D because she wanted to be close to her mother like he was. What is so hard to understand about the movie I don't get. I think everyone is so used to the same type movies. When something different and better come along their brains lock up. The only thing I can suggest "GO BUY THE BOOK", it only cost $15.00. Now that I've explained the movie some go see it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've read through through some of these reviews, and I'm sorry, but I
have to disagree with quite a lot of them. I think the film is amazing,
intelligent and emotive, and does justice to Toni Morrison's incredible
novel (one of the best I have ever read). However, I can understand why
some people are confused; I think the film is easier to grasp if you
read the book. To clarify some of the confusion: * Sethe (Oprah)
intends to kill her children before taking her own life, to protect
them all from the suffering that awaits them at Sweet Home (the
plantation). However, she only succeeds in killing her baby daughter,
Beloved, before she is caught. * Sethe is imprisoned for killing her
daughter, but is later released due to the efforts of abolitionists
(including Baby Sugg's landlord). * Beloved dies as a young infant,
and, despite the fact that she returns in the body of a young woman-
the age she would have been, had she lived- she retains the emotional
and social maturity of a baby (hence the freaky baby- wailing noises
that Thandie Newton makes). * The scene where Oprah's character, Sethe,
urinates, actually denotes that her waters are breaking again, before
the second 'arrival' of her daughter (this happens when the family meet
Beloved at the house) * Beloved seems to be both the 'reincarnation' of
Sethe's dead daughter, and an embodiment of every African who suffered
or died during slavery (particularly those slaves who died before their
stories could be passed on).
I apologise for the 'geekiness' of my semi- in-depth analysis- I studied the novel as part of my degree, and loved this adaptation. I think the actors are all amazing, and the film is definitely worth watching- especially if you are willing to read the book x.
Beloved the movie seeks to rival Beloved the novel in telling the
African-American story. While it could not attempt to capture all of the
richness of Morrison's great novel, it does do what it can in the
constraints of a feature movie. The performances are phenomenal, and any
Oscar nominations will be well deserved. The Ohio/Kentucky background takes
one's breath away and the movie really does grip its viewer during key
However, Morrison's non-linear style did not translate as well on the big screen and the flashbacks are truly confusing at points. Moreover, the movie has about three natural climaxes which heighten the viewer's awareness of the length of the movie.
All told, it is a good movie, but it is not a must-see movie, nor will it have the cultural impact Oprah intended.
(As for no likeable white characters which some posts have charged, first Mr. Baldwin is a likeable white person. Second, in a post-slavery society of Ohio/Kentucky, why do there have to be any good whites in this narrow world? Oh yeah, don't be mad at Oprah for that--Morrison didn't include any in her book either)
I found it difficult to understand the movie, and some of the dialogue, but
it mattered little. I wish I'd read the book--perhaps I will, but I don't
think so. A film must stand by itself, or it is not a
"Beloved" has long passages of greatness. First, it contains one of the best and most fascinating performances I've seen in years, given by Thandie Newton. She spent most of "Gridlock'd" in a coma, unfortunately, and that's the most notable role she's had until this one. Her first speaking (if you'll call it that) line is gripping, frightening, and amusing, and she plays a mental defective in a manner which I've never seen before. She has the loudest, rudest character, and many actresses would be put off by some of the things she must do throughout the film. However, our attention is also held by her quiet moments, as well as a few shots where the camera is content to gaze tranquilly into her beautiful eyes.
That camera is conducted with the supreme artistry of one of my favorite photographers, Tak Fujimoto, who was with director Jonathan Demme since the late '70s. Fujimoto is in love with earth and flesh tones here, but he also shoots his actors' eyes as if they were a part of the human body we'd never really noticed before, and wanted to give them the attention they deserved. It's a great approach to cinematography that pays off an infinite number of times, from the first major shot, of Sethe and Paul D reuniting (as Winfrey and Glover look at each other, they look not just into the camera, but directly into OUR eyes), to the last major shot, Jason Robards (God love him) staring in horror at a most unusual scene in front of Sethe's home.
This film is no "The Color Purple", with Welles-influenced camera angles and sacchirine-induced uplift. "Beloved" is a long, difficult, often off-putting film which doesn't really provide the big payoff at the end. This isn't necessarily good, but it isn't necessarily bad, either. Highlighted sequences include two truly remarkable sermons in the woods by Baby Suggs (Beah Richards--Oscar-nominated in '68 for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"), a horrifying opening which features the most gruesome use of animatronics to date, and the notorious flashback which explain what has haunted Sethe all these years, and who Beloved really is.
I compare this film with "The Thin Red Line". Both come from notable directors, are based on famous novels, used huge budgets, and were very long. Both films disappointed many, many people. Most importantly, however, they both had parts which were greater than the whole, occasional strokes of genius, and were made by men who took the art of filmmaking seriously.
When I logged onto IMDb and came to the "Beloved" page (after finishing
watching the film), I was extremely surprised at the average 5.4 user
rating that this film had. 5.4, are you kidding me? I went in seeing
this film without ever reading (or having any knowledge of) the
award-winning novel that the film is apparently very tightly based
upon. Even without that, this film was amazing. The movie begins with a
woman named Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a former slave living in 1800s
Cincinatti, where an unseen presence is tearing apart her house,
throwing things against the walls, and injuring her dog. Her two sons
ultimately run away, terrified of the house, and her youngest daughter,
Denver is forced to stay. Cut to eight years later, a friend of
Sethe's, Paul D. (Danny Glover) reenters her life and moves in with
Sethe. "We got a ghost here", Denver tells him, and Paul D. mentions
feeling an evil presence in her house, but Sethe tells him it's "only
sadness". Then later on, a mysterious young woman who calls herself
"Beloved" is found standing in the front yard of the house. She can
barely speak, can't move, and is almost like an infant in the body of a
teenager. But who is she, where did she come from, and why is she
there? Sethe's dark past holds the secret to Beloved's identity, which
is revealed later on in the film.
"Beloved" isn't a horror film, and I wasn't expecting one either. Granted, there are a few disturbing scenes (and a handful of rather scary moments), but this film is a drama more than anything and really focuses more on it's characters. The story itself is an interesting one at that, and after seeing this I'm tempted to go read the novel (which I hear the film is adapted to very closely). Everything in the film seems to be put together very nicely, and (unlike many people who claim to not be able to follow the story) I followed it very easily. There are some harsh themes that are a consistent part of the plot (mainly Sethe's horrible past as an abused slave) and there are some scenes that are truly hard to watch. While the supernatural element is a main theme in the movie, this isn't your average ghost story. It's not horrific or in-your-face, it's a much lighter and touching. I don't want to go too in-depth into the plot, because there are things that I could easily spoil and wouldn't want to - see the film for yourself. Character development is rampant in the film, and each of the characters mature in a different way throughout the course of the movie, and makes for some very interesting viewing as each of them grow in different ways.
Performances are amazing from everyone involved. I'd never seen Oprah Winfrey act, I'd just seen her television talk-show a few times, but she proves in this film that she can (and very well too). Danny Glover also gives a very nice performance but it's overshadowed by the rest of the cast. Thandie Newton plays Beloved, and plays it perfectly - her character is mysterious and obscure, and she does it well. Kimberly Elise plays Sethe's daughter, Denver, and plays the character excellently. I can't say anything bad about the acting in any aspects - to sum it up as a whole, the acting here is just flat-out amazing. Along with the wonderful acting, the directing is great also. Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (who also directed the award winning crime-suspense masterpiece "The Silence of the Lambs") handles the story well and keeps things consistently absorbing and ultimately haunting. Very nice cinematography is present too, and there are tons of symbolic images throughout the film that are placed nicely in the mix, along with a lot of shots of nature and wildlife.
Overall, "Beloved" is an amazing movie, and the people who are rating this as a '1/10' must have not seen very many movies, because this film is so far from a '1' that it's not even funny. Don't let the average user rating scare you off from this film, because it really deserves much better than that. I guess this is one of those "love it or hate it" movies, but I thought it was an unforgettable movie. 10/10.
Famous feminist writer, Toni Morrison, deserved to win a Pulitzer Prize
for her historical novel that represents Black American's struggles
with slavery and freedom.
How anyone, let alone hundreds of voters here, could rate this marvelously directed & performed film a 1 is beyond me. Oprah Winfrey is the leading lady of the cast who ultimately demonstrates what is an Oscar-entitled performance.
Sethe, the character Winfrey plays is one of the most complex & challenging ones that I can imagine for any actor to take upon themselves. In fact, Winfrey stayed so true to her character, in my mind, she became Sethe: a former slave mother, a million & a half miles away from a Oprah the billionaire guest show host in Chicago! Danny Glover also gave a grand performance that was equally far from any other role I've seen him play. He & Winfrey together are a fine big screen match who I hope are in movies with Pulitzer prize winning plots as thick as is this one.
I saw this amazing film at the theatre and was skeptical going in due to Oprah's campaigning for it so heavily but was blown away regardless--after watching it again I understand her pleas. This stunning story and its brilliant execution by an outstanding director, cast and crew was seen by far too few people. It should have swept the oscars and if I recall--was merely nominated for costume design the same year that literally no black actors, directors, or films were nominated in any of their categories. wow--a real eye opener on how little respect good art recieves even today--let alone artists of color. I'd like the opportunity to tell each and every member of the cast how astonished I was even hours later. A beautiful, rich, and generous film. An earnest thank you to everyone who helped get it made. Bravo and thank you!
READ THE BOOK, PEOPLE, READ THE BOOK! The book helped me understand the film and the film helped me understand the book. This is an amazing piece of work. Winfrey gives a moving and observant performance and Thandie Newton is startling. Some scenes are intense, making you think whether you would kill your child. I didn't notice any gliches and I think the film screams for Oscars. I think this whole slave movie thing going on is getting boring but when they are made with such power and great directing and acting, I praise God for it! Demme gives us one of the most touching ghost stories and certainly the strangest, in a while.
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