Monday, December 26, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Clint Eastwood's quirky, atmospheric MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL (1997) is now available on a beautiful Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

Clint Eastwood directed from a screenplay by John Lee Hancock, based on a novel by John Berendt.

John Cusack stars as John Kelso, a New York magazine writer who arrives in Savannah at Christmastime to write a feature on millionaire Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey).

Kelso immediately finds himself in a slightly off-kilter world, attending Christmas parties and meeting oddball characters, but things are about to get stranger still, when Williams shoots and kills Billy (Jude Law). Kelso now has a new assignment, covering the murder trial.

There's an array of colorful characters who will make great fodder for Kelso's writing, such as Williams' lawyer Sonny (Jack Thompson), who is the owner of the dog which is the University of Georgia mascot; Minerva (Irma P. Hall), who takes him on late-night cemetery visits for voodoo rituals; the cheerful cross-dresser Lady Chablis (who passed away last September); and the Married Ladies Card Club. And let's not forget the man who walks an invisible dog!

About the only fairly normal person Kelso meets is singer Mandy (Alison Eastwood), with whom he tentatively begins a relationship.

For the most part the film is engrossing, though I was impatient with Geoffrey Lewis's "fly man" character; it was completely unbelievable someone who acted in such an imbalanced way would be on a jury, even in this movie!

On the plus side, I loved the movie's ongoing tribute to Savannah native Johnny Mercer, beginning with a shot of his burial place as the film begins; his songs are heard throughout the movie.

Spacey is magnetic as Williams, and Cusack does a great job, his expressions often simultaneously conveying worry and an awed "I can't even believe what a great story this is!"

The film's leisurely pace seems to fit its subject matter, though in truth I started growing restless near the end of its 155 minutes. Trimming ten minutes or so -- particularly the fly man scenes -- would have probably been a wise idea.

The movie was filmed on location in Savannah by Jack N. Green.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R for "language and brief violence." I would add to that that some of the themes are fairly adult.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a terrific-looking widescreen print. The disc includes a featurette and the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


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