Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil

 Went down to the local video store yesterday and hired three DVDs. All are Clint Eastwood films and believe it or not it wasn't planned that way. It is just what I happened to pick up. But I'm a big fan of Eastwood, both as an actor and director, so I'm sure I won't die of Eastwood overload!
 I do remember this film playing here in Napier when it was released and no matter how hard I try I can't remember why I didn't see it. I do remember that I'd never heard of the book back then though. I have since read it three years ago and I suppose, like most, absolutely loved it. Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood as a non-fiction novel and recieved a huge amount of praise for it. I think Midnight is far superior though.
 I loved the eccentricities of the characters of the book. It is well written and paced, and totally original. Like any good book or film it just stays with you. So I was really looking forward to sitting down and watching its film adaptation, which I did last night with the company of three large scotchs!
 It took me a while to get into this film as I tried to remember what was happening from the book. Unfortunately Eastwood has fiddled with it somewhat and this is what threw me. Many characters have much smaller roles in the film than from the book. He also uses his daughter as the love interest to Cusack's character, which again isn't in the book. Besides these changes he has kept to the book relatively well and the viewer will recognise it.
 But it isn't all bad! This is an incredibly ambitious book to make a movie from. It is a film about people's characters and eccentric ways, and not so much a story type film. It certainly revolves around a murder but it is about people's minds and their behaviour. This is somewhat easier to write than to put onto celluloid. Eastwood gives it a good shot but somehow there is a flatness to his interpretation.
 I like Eastwood as a director and Midnight is technically excellent. I loved the cinematography and the editing is first class. Eastwood has even got the pace of life in Savannah right with the pacing of the film. The film runs to over two hours, but unlike many long films this one didn't feel too long. In fact I was surprised at the end to look at the clock and see how long it had been. It may have a slow pace but it is never dull or ponderous. It moves along subtely and deceptively.  Overall it is a very finely crafted film and I can't fault it.
 But it is flat. The performances are excellent. Spacey is superb and plays the murderer who knows he got way with it. Savannah is spectacular in its Southerness, and overall the visuals are truley engaging. So what is missing? It is hard to define. I really liked this film. The craftmanship of Eastwood is top notch as usual but, but, but. What is it? 
 For me Chablis wasn't extroverted enough. The character was good in the film, but her 'yah yeah yah's from the book weren't there.  I wanted them to be as it is what I remember most about his/her (?!!) character. And I suppose that is the crux of my problem with this films flatness. It is their characters.
 As I have already alluded to this should be a film about people and a warts and all examination of them as individuals. Remember it is said in the book and the movie that nothing happens in Savannah without anyone else knowing. Everboby knows everbody and that includes everything about them. And for  everything that I like about this film the essence of it is missing. Eastwood has watered it down far too much and everything that is great about the book has been watered down to.
 By surpressing some characters and toning down others, most notably Chablis, and introducing a non-book character Eastwood has taken the heart and sole out of the film. It is a crying shame as it is a great book and should have been translated to the big screen in a much better way. It is still worth watching because it is not a bad film. There is much to like, but if you are expecting the book you will be disappointed because what you will get is a watered down sanitised version.
 A superbly crafted film but with a palpable flatness about it. A film you finish watching and go 'that could have better'.
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