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The Member of the Wedding (1997)
Awful version of a wonderful play
This could have been a wonderful version of McCuller's novel if Pacquin had not been so terrible in the role of Frankie. She may have been good in her first role in "The Piano", but she has not become a good actress. Her acting ability has not grown...it has diminished. In this play, her acting is painful to watch. One can 'see' her act which is not pleasant. She just doesn't have the talent to pull it off. As a young Jane Eyre, it was also painful to watch her. For anyone who has seen the original version of "Member of the Wedding" with Julie Harris will know what I mean. Harris was incredible and it would be hard to match her performance. Pacquin just seems to be a lightweight playing against the extremely talented Alfre Woodard. I love this play and it just made me sad to see Pacquin do such a terrible job with such a fascinating character.
Eve's Bayou (1997)
This was a delightfully good movie. Set in the Louisiana bayou country in the 60's, it is a wonderful story of a well-to-do black family caught up in family tensions that drive the plot but never overpower the family's love for each other. Infidelity, an over-protective mother, the psychic aunt's tragic loss of loves and a delicious dose of voodoo all make this a good watch. The child actress, Jurnee Smollett as Eve, delivers a beautiful performance with talent far beyond her years. Debbie Morgan is terrific as the fortune-telling wise, but cursed-in -love Aunt Mozelle.
Lynn Whitfield and Samuel L. Jackson are also superb as the parents whose complex and troubled relationship's problems spill over onto the children, especially the two daughters, Eve and Cisely. Cisely sees herself as a buffer comforting her father and trying to protect him from her mother whom Cisely sees as a rival for her father's affections. Eve bounces around amidst the angst of being a middle child and the desire to understand the adults' world. This definitely a movie to see. It's a shame that jewels like this get overlooked in the usual Hollywood hype machine.
The Others (2001)
This is on my all-time, top ten best scary movies list. Nicole Kidman is incredible as a stressed- out mother trying to deal with two children who have a deadly light-sensitivity condition. In addition to having to live in a neverending existence of locking and unlocking doors and in no more light than lantern light, she has to deal with the possibility that her big English Gothic mansion is haunted by 'the others'. This movie kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The creepy-but you don't know why daughter-the housekeeper who seems aware of something but doesn't give it away-the poor mute maid and Kidman's perfect teetering on the edge performance all adds to the tension. What is beautiful and brilliant about this movie is they way it unfolds without allowing the audience to 'figure' out what's really happening. Why Kidman did not win an Oscar for this performance is beyond me. An absolutely brilliantly made movie!
Baby Doll (1956)
I have longed loved this movie. Being from the south and being old enough to relate to the time and place, I found this movie to be fascinating and very well-acted. Also being an ardent fan of Tennessee Williams, I think he has a genius for depicting the transition of the old south to the south of the forties and fifties. Antebellum mansions in decay but not yet abandoned, old-south mores still clung to. I found it comical that, in 1956, such extreme words were used to describe this movie-lewd, lascivious, immoral as though the movie had invented such things. Apparently, the critics back then didn't have a clue about the south. Yes, we had lewdness, lasciviousness and immorality-as did the rest of the country. But we, at least, displayed them against a background more dramatic and more 'interesting' than anywhere else. "Baby Doll" wasn't just a movie. "Baby Doll" was the real south of the fifties .
The Haunting (1999)
Could have been better
Some people confuse the story of Hill House with the badly made movie "The Haunting of Hell House". The plots are very similar but the Shirley Jackson story is far superior. Jan de Bont could have made a delightfully terrifying movie but instead made a movie in which the special effects are comical. Stained glass that becomes eyes, ceilings that twist and swell. The set designer for this movie missed an opportunity to use available technology to scare the daylights out of us. Instead of a truly frightening house, we got a mishmash of tacky decor and comically used sculptures. The only element of Gothic scariness was the painting of Hugh Crain at the top of the stairs. The house looked as though it had been a project on HGTV's Designer Finals and the designers lost. The story, itself, could have been retold by de Bont, in a way that would put it right up there with the 1963 version but he chose instead to try and frighten us with cartoon-like special effects and a lackluster and disjointed script. Too much about the Hugh Crain story is left as a puzzle. But, the biggest puzzle of all was why de Bont wasted all that talent and money to give us such a disappointing movie.