Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 1998. Harpo Films, Clinica Estetico, Touchstone Pictures. Screenplay by Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravenese, Adam Brooks, based on the novel by Toni Morrison. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Produced by Jonathan Demme, Kate Forte, Gary Goetzman, Edward Saxon, Oprah Winfrey. Music by Rachel Portman. Production Design by Kristi Zea. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Andy Keir, Carol Littleton.
Rich storytelling and absolutely stunning production design by Kristi Zea contribute greatly to this adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Oprah Winfrey, in her first big screen venture since she debuted with The Colour Purple in 1985, stars (and also produced) as Sethe, an escaped slave living in Ohio who must abide with the ghost of her dead child, leaving her surviving daughter Denver (Kimberly Elise) driven to the depths of despair and her other two sons running away to avoid the evil spirit.
Enter an old friend (Danny Glover), and a mysteriously ailing young woman who only calls herself Beloved (Thandie Newton) who needs their care. The film’s tedious pace will be torture for some, but Jonathan Demme only emphasizes how much there really is to process by slowing it down and letting the audience really soak the story up piece by piece.
Winfrey’s performance proves how regrettable it is that she doesn’t make movies more often, and Elise does exceptionally well considering hers is the more subdued of the young women’s roles. Costumes by Colleen Atwood are among the best of her career and the cinematography by Tak Fujimoto couldn’t be more haunting.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Costume Design