Eye For Film >> Movies >> Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997) Film Review
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
When antiques dealer, Jim Williams, shot his lover, faeces hit the air conditioning. For one thing, he was a social icon in Savannah, his Christmas parties being legendary. For another, his lover was a street punk (Jude Law) with a drug habit and down south homosexuality is not looked upon as a fashion statement.
Clint Eastwood's film is based on John Berendt's best seller. As a magazine writer, Berendt was sent to Savannah to do a travel piece and became caught up in the Williams scandal. His book is as much to do with a Northern sensibility, discovering the strange otherness of Southern manners as the faintly uninteresting question of whether the dead kid fired first, or fired at all.
John Cusack plays Berendt, using another name. There is very little he can make of the part. Unlike Matthew McConaughey in A Time To Kill, another Southern courtroom drama, he is an observer, not an instigator. A flower shop assistant (Clint's daughter, Alison) and a black transvestite (The Lady Chablis) take a shine to him. He discovers late night graveyard voodoo and is invited to the coloured people's debutante ball.
There is no character developement, no tension. Whether Williams gets off on a self-defence plea, or not, seems of little consequence. Kevin Spacey made his name playing sicko oddballs in The Usual Suspects and Se7en. He is a controlled actor, who works from the inside out. As Williams, he appears intellectually self-contained and emotionally constipated. His defense counsel, Sonny Seiler (Jack Thompson), who, in real life, takes the role of the judge and does an excellent job, is, by comparison, a garrulous good ole boy, which livens things up.
Eastwood directs languidly, taking his time - too much time - and shows off Savannah to its best advantage. There is no reason why any of this, or any of them, matter as much as Berendt thought they did. Somewhere between book and screen, the fear has gone out of Midnight.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001