I'll admit, I read the novel a few years ago and I was a big fan of it. So I went into the theater already wanting to like the movie. I wasn't as concerned with plot details as some other viewers apparently were. Since I knew what was going to happen, I simply focused on reliving the story, and seeing how the filmmakers interpreted it. It's such a dense novel with so much going on, I think Richard Price is the only person who could've adapted it and still kept the spirit of the original material. Now, all that being said...was it a good movie? In my opinion, yes it was. I felt empathy for all the characters (except Brenda's brother, who I felt contempt for). I was surprised that I was able to empathize with Brenda's character, but I credit Julianne Moore for that. She gave a performance that was filled with pain, and confusion, and fear, and all the emotions I would have imagined Brenda would be going through. Samuel Jackson played Lorenzo just as I hoped he would. Not over the top with a bunch of yelling and fist pounding. But as a man who realizes all too well what can happen when a white woman points the finger at a black man and yells "He did it!" The biggest problem I have with the movie is the way that it's being marketed. If I hadn't read the book, I would've never gone to see it based on it's trailer. It looks like just another missing child thriller. So I can understand why some viewers felt cheated when they saw the movie and realized that it's much more complex than that. It's about the politics of race, and how they can be manipulated. It's about the uneasy truce that exists in some communities, and how quickly a fuse can be lit to ignite tension. And most importantly, it's about people making choices that they regret, and the aftermath of those choices.
If you're looking for a missing child thriller, or a theatrical version of a CSI episode, this probably isn't for you. If a tough examination of race and class makes you uncomfortable, then don't bother with this one. But if you want to challenge yourself as a viewer, and get inside the minds of characters who are trying desperately to hold their worlds together, then I think you'll get something out of this film.