Beloved (DVD, 1999) Reviews
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Beloved (DVD, 1999)

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"Beloved" -- A Haunting Film that Deserves to be Seen...

Mar 1, 2001 (Updated Mar 4, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Deep, engrossing film - one of Johnathon Demme's best!

Cons:Some may find it long - but it is engrossing and deserves to be seen!

The Bottom Line: Great movies deserve to be seen.


"Beloved" was the new movie brought to us by Oprah Winfrey (in 1998), the true 'Queen of All Media,' Ms. Inspiration herself. Oprah read "Beloved," a novel written by award winning author Toni Morrison, more than ten years ago, and she knew this was something she wanted to translate to the big screen. And so, her journey began. Of course ten years ago she wasn't as famous as she is now, yet Oprah was still able to secure the film rights for "Beloved," and then wisely laid the project on the back burner - waiting for the right time to begin the process of bringing it to life on the big screen.

Two years ago she hooked up with Johnathon Demme, the award winning director of "Philadelphia," and "Silence of the Lambs," and he willingly signed on to direct with Oprah producing and of course staring in the lead role. And the results are strong (if not mixed).

But "Beloved" is not your standard Hollywood flare. It's a deep, dramatic and haunting tale of slavery and of the psychological veils of the mind. It's a film I really want to see again, for there's a lot here to uncover. Unfortunately because of that, many people may be turned off by this film. And I hope not.

I particularly loved the way nature and the images of nature were used to reflect the mindset of the characters in "Beloved." The film also does a remarkable job of flowing past and present together into one. Set just after the abolition of slavery, it is this horrid past that hasn't left the minds of these characters. They're still haunted by the horrors of the slavery and oppression they were lucky enough to escape from. It deals with it both in a realistic and interesting manner.

The acting is great all around. Oprah stars as Sethe, mother to a family torn apart by slavery and by her own fears. Danny Glover also plays a pivotal part in the movie as the character of Paul D. Essentially, he's the tie between Sethe and reality. Sethe's daughter, Denver, is played brilliantly by Kimberly Elise. And the character of Denver very much reminded me of Sarah Polly's character from one of my favorite films of 1997, "The Sweet Hereafter." Both characters are changed on very deep, personal levels, both are essentially the only ones who really survive their situations in life in one piece (both emotionally, and to another degree, physically), and both at the end of each movie are ready to face their futures.

And, of course, there's "Beloved," played by Thandie Newton. Here she plays a young, mentally disturbed woman who rises up out of the swamp, making the audience ask, 'who is she?' Is she real or just a figment of everyone's imagination? It's a very complex character that has been created that holds so many possibilities for interpretation. And it's fascinating to see the family's reaction to this 'ghost,' to see Denver reach out to Beloved in a nurturing way too brings us back to the idea of maternal instinct and nature. Actually, the character of Beloved reminded me of Clint Eastwood's character from "High Plains Drifter." Is he the brother, ghost or the actual man who was oppressed so many years ago?

The other most fascinating and heart warming character that is worth watching is a character who appears in the flashbacks. And this is the character of Baby Bugs, played by Beah Richards. Here, the is the old matriarch of the family, the trusted grandmother, the loving soul from which hope always flows. Her message rings loud and clear not only for the characters in the movie, but for the people watching the movie as well.

But what I loved about "Beloved" is how it takes risks with it's storytelling. It remembers and acknowledges the all important visuals of a film, and the scenes are brilliantly executed. "Beloved" is a drama that thrives on the psychological horrors that are presented to us in a seemingly realistic way (Hitchcock would have loved this film and its situation!). It's a type of horror that is sadly misunderstood in today's motion pictures. But, luckily a few directors do understand this and use it to their (and our) advantage.

"Beloved" is definitely worth watching - not only once - but a few times if possible. It's a wonderfully textured piece, and unfortunately judging from the reactions of some of my friends and family, I don't think it will fare well with other pictures currently playing. But don't take your friends word for it - seek this movie out for yourself - I don't think you'll be disappointed. I wasn't. But it's best to be warned - this is not a commercial movie. It is not lighthearted, popcorn fluff! It's a good movie!

And yet, in some ways it's sad that if not through the power of Oprah, we may have never seen this story translated to the big screen. Because it is a story that's worth seeing because it is different, and because it succeeds in it's execution.

Grade: A

(Movie originally reviewed on October 24, 1998)


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