Film Scouts Reviews

"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"

by Karen Jaehne

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Objecting to anything in this stroll through the magnolia blossoms of bourbon-drenched Savannah makes you feel like Sherman. Still, I'd hasten the pace. There are enough quirky characters to fill up two hours and 35 minutes, but can't they just move a bit faster?

As everybody who reads knows, Clint Eastwood read this book and decided to use it as a film to honor the late, great tune-meister Johnny Mercer. The score is great, of course. (Was there ever an Eastwood film without a great score?) And the romantic mood music increases our tolerance for these wacky, quirky characters.

Kevin Spacey looks vaguely uncomfortable about being dealt a complete hand of Rhett Butler cards. His poker face makes us think somebody is just off-screen hissing "Yankee go home." The man playing the visiting Yankee, John Cusack, has loads of charm, but his mouth is puckered up in constant consternation at the weird ways of the South.

It is the story, after all, of John Cusack going south to write up a humdinger of a party for a magazine, only to be ensnared in the machinations of his subject. Writers make for lumpy movie heroes, even when they get snared into figuring out a murder for a Bubba of a defense lawyer played by Jack Thompson (with considerable weight!). The story of how the South conquers its conquerers is a tough tale to tell. Brer Rabbit would never get caught in this briarpatch, because it's little more than some episodes strung along like Christmas lights in May. Where's the conflict? Who bothers to resist anything?

The lack of suspense leaves you feeling like a big old porch sagging under the weight of those ante-bellum mansions. Southern comfort always leaves me with a headache but it's our only line of defense against southern charm.

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