A backwoods Alabama boy named Peejoe -short for Peter Joseph- gets a quick education in grown-up matters like freedom in 1965. The catalyst is an unlikely source - his glamorous, eccentric Aunt Lucille, who escapes from her abusive husband and takes off for Hollywood to pursue her dreams of TV stardom. Written by
A real treat, much better than it had any right to be. It's the 1960s in Alabama and Lucille (Melanie Griffith) murders and decapitates her abusive husband Chester, and heads to Hollywood with his head. Meanwhile back home, segregation is being fought in her small town. Our narrator is Lucille's nephew, he is living with his uncle (David Morse), witnessing the evil of the town sheriff (Meat Loaf) and trying to make sense of the civil rights movement.
This is an odd, yet ultimately successful, merging of two very different stories. The Alabama civil rights story is a gentle, human drama, while the Lucille story is broadly colored, with flashy costumes, comical characters, and tart dialogue. Lucille dazzles everyone who meets her, and everything goes her way, despite the fact that Chester's head continues to speak to her, calling her a slut who'll never amount to anything. I can't explain why the surreal comedy works so well in parallel to the small town drama, but it does. Griffith is compelling -- her husband, Antonio Banderas, directs her as he sees her, the camera keeps finding the perfect woman; thrilling, sensual and sweet.
In the "featurette" on the DVD, both Griffith and Banderas say the movie is about freedom, and the stories parallel well because Lucille's freedom from her husband's oppression parallels the blacks' freedom from civil oppression. But I saw it more as an R.D. Laing movie. The truth of Crazy in Alabama is in its title -- sanity IS a sane answer to an insane world. The nation WAS watching Bewitched and shopping for hats while blacks were beaten to death for the right to use whites-only facilities. "Crazy," in this movie, defies definition -- what is individual craziness when the world goes crazy? Lucille's craziness is sweet and understandable; the world's, less so. 9/10
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