Sunday, May 25, 2008

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

The world is a quirky place, but this movie is a case study in how not to convey that quirkiness. Instead of letting us absorb the quirkiness of Savannah for ourselves, it consistently tells us of how this quirkiness should strike us: every time some character is portrayed doing something unusual, there's a quick cut to John Cusack's open-mouthed stare.

I've been watching movies directed by Clint Eastwood lately, and I feel like this suffers from a similar problem as "Flags of our fathers": the frame of the movie ends up disrupting the narrative. In this case, the central narrative of the movie, which involves a gay art dealer in Savannah who may have murdered his boyfriend, is framed by the story of a New York writer's interest and involvement in this murder case. We're not allowed to appreciate the case itself; instead, we have to tediously follow the writer around as he's consistently amazed by Savannah's quirkiness. In "Flags of our fathers", we end up following a writer as he investigates his father's involvement in the famous flag-raising photo from Iwo Jima. While these frames may well have been essential to the book versions of each of these stories, in the movie versions I found them annoyingly irrelevant. And simply boring to have to sit through in order to get to the real story.