A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.
An all-star cast highlights this bizarre dramatic thriller based on the book (of the same name) by Pete Dexter. The cast features Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn and Macy Gray all playing against type in unusual roles (for each actor). It was written (along with Dexter) and directed by Lee Daniels (who is most well known for directing the critical darling and Oscar nominated 'PRECIOUS', which was also based on a popular book). The movie itself has gotten mostly bad reviews but Kidman has gotten plenty of high critical praise and award recognition for her performance in it (including a supporting actress Golden Globe nomination). The rest of the cast has been well received as well and Daniels is still seen as a skilled director but the trashy content of the film as well as it's overall muddled nature have been negatively criticized by many. I agree with the criticisms but still feel like I have to give it a lot of respect and credit for what it does manage to accomplish.
The film revolves around a man named Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack) who's on death row for the murder of a local sheriff in a small Florida town. He's been communicating with a woman, Charlotte Bless (Kidman), he's never met via letters. Charlotte believes she's in love with Hillary and calls on the help of two reporters from Miami, Ward Jansen (McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (Oyelowo), to help her prove he's innocent. Believing new evidence is available the two reporters travel to the Florida town, which is a return home for Ward (to the town he grew up in). Ward visits his dad (Glenn) and his new girlfriend (Nealla Gordon), who distribute his paper there. He also reunites with his kid brother Jack (Efron), who helps with their investigation. Jack is young and inexperienced with women and immediately falls for the sexy Charlotte. The Jansen's maid Anita (Gray) is Jack's only friend and she narrates the story.
The movie is sleazy and trashy pulp like the films of yesteryear. Daniels brings a lot of style to his storytelling but it's still a mess. The visuals are often haunting and disturbing and you never really know where the film is going or what to make of anyone or anything in it. It is bizarrely interesting though and entertaining in a somewhat bitter way. Like a lot of films it has a lot of great moments but a lot of bad ones in between as well. The cast is all fantastic; Cusack is very strange and creepy, McConaughey seems to be playing a character like many others he's done before but he does take a sharp character twist, Efron is good as the shy yet determined heart of the film and Kidman is fantastic as the sex obsessed vixen. The movie is a mixed bag but it definitely has it's qualities.
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- Jan 25, 2013