Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2012. Millennium Films, Lee Daniels Entertainment. Screenplay by Peter Dexter, Lee Daniels, based on the novel by Peter Dexter. Cinematography by Roberto Schaefer. Produced by Ed Cathell III, Lee Daniels, Cassian Elwes, Avi Lerner, Miguel Menendez de Zubillaga, Hilary Shor. Music by Mario Grigorov. Production Design by Daniel T. Dorrance. Costume Design by Caroline Eselin. Film Editing by Joe Klotz.
The southern gothic madness is laid on ridiculously thick for this adaptation of the novel by Peter Dexter, saved from years of development hell by Precious director Lee Daniels. The result is a huge disappointment, a combination of rich atmosphere, dull plotting and raucous miscasting that make for a fascinating and compelling but ultimately misfired mess. Zac Efron is the younger of two brothers growing up in small town Florida whose older reporter brother (Matthew McConaughey) comes home from the big city to investigate the murder of a much-hated sheriff, believing that the man in jail for killing him (John Cusack) is innocent. Nicole Kidman plays the sexed-up human Barbie doll with a penchant for convicts who has been writing Cusack love letters and ends up teaming up with the boys to help get him freed, with David Oyelowo as McConaughey’s Miami colleague and Macy Gray as the housekeeper (and narrator) who raised the boys after their mother abandoned them. The results are out of control as tempers flare and sexual desire rages even harder: people are tied up, cut with knives and peed on and that’s not even involved in the actual murder investigation. For a film with as many plot strands as it has, it shouldn’t be as unenthusiastic as it is, but Daniels’ inability to decide between watching the long reeds of grass grow in the murky swamps or focus on the excitement of a murder mystery leaves the film without any pulse whatsoever. The physical characteristics of the experience are also a strange blending of elements, with rough, seventies-looking photography completely at odds with the presence of big Hollywood movie stars who cannot escape their trademark personalities and just seem like they’re going through the motions of playing charismatic trash. Efron is the least offensive on this front, while Kidman is never believable but at least seems to be having a good time; Cusack and McConaughey seem to think they deserve to be commended for stepping outside their comfort zone, but neither of them is powerful enough to deserve the praise.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2012