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dir Lee Daniels
scr Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter
prd Ed Cathell III, Lee Daniels, Cassian Elwes, Hilary Shor
with Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn, Ned Bellamy, Nealla Gordon, Macy Gray, Danny Hanemann, Gary Clarke, Edrick Browne
release US 5.Oct.12, UK 15.Mar.13
12/US Millennium 1h47
Swamp things: McConaughey and Efron
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
After Precious, filmmaker Daniels dives into the trashiest situation imaginable, wallowing in sweat and blood on the fringes of human behaviour without ever blinking. It's a remarkable approach to storytelling, and the sheer audacity makes it worth seeing. As do the actors' committed performances.
In 1969, Miami journalist Ward (McConaughey) returns home to rural Florida to investigate a messy murder case. In this racially tense area, his black sidekick Yardley (Oyelowo) raises eyebrows as they dig into the story of death-row inmate Hillary (Cusack), whose trampy fiancee Charlotte (Kidman) is helping with his appeal. Then Ward's 20-year-old little brother Jack (Efron) gets involved. He works delivering the newspaper edited by their dad (Glenn), and is instantly smitten by Charlotte's overt sexuality. But then she seems to be trying to seduce everyone.
Efron manages to be both smart and naive as the cheeky Jack, through whose horndog eyes we see events unfold. So Kidman's Charlotte is almost overpoweringly sexual as she slithers through each scene, triggering Jack's lusty obsession. But there's much more to the story, and none of the characters are as dumb as they look. Although all of them are much shadier. Along with Efron and Kidman, McConaughey, Cusack and Oyelowo clearly relish every bonkers moment.
Daniels strikes a snarky, lurid tone from the start, filling the screen with sassy attitude and blatant insinuation. It may be well over-the-top, but it's also eerily naturalistic, with vivid chemistry between the characters. Even after Ward's dark secret is exposed, his relationship with his brother is fascinating. And Yardley is a dark horse, clearly up to something that's probably not nefarious, but who knows?
The story is told with a gloriously garish mixture of rhythms and textures, including first-rate cinematography, production design and sound mixing that add to the 1960s exploitation vibe. Racism and jealousy gurgle through every scene as these people struggle to acknowledge their dark urges, let alone control them. Oddly narrated by Jack's childhood maid (Gray), the film loses momentum as the plot takes one swampy twist too many, but the final sequence feels like a journey into the belly of the beast: intense, crazed and more than a little scary. In other words: it's riveting cinema.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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