Die hard lovers of the novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" will hate this film. The film is based on the book, but is missing some details and has added a few other unnecessary ones.
John Cusack plays John, the magazine writer who finds himself in the middle of the courtroom drama. He's one of my faves, but he's not right for the part. Through his previous films, he's carved out a sort of sarcastic-fish-out-of-water niche. It's refreshing to see him in a different light, but on the other hand, someone older might have been better. Someone, like, say director Clint Eastwood?
Much of the appeal of the book was the characters (and I do mean characters) surrounding the plotline. There were so many funny and outrageous people, but they all had subtelty and nuances that made them seem like real people, not just some made-up caricatures. The film has no time to do that, so it just kind of hits you over the head and yells "Okay! They're all weird! Look at them!".
The plotline involves the magazine writer, who is visiting Savannah, Georgia while writing a piece profiling Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey) who buys and refurbishes old houses. He shoots his live-in boyfriend during a heated argument and is put on trial for his murder. Williams is somewhat eccentric and had similarly kooky friends, like a drag queen named Lady Chablis. The real Lady Chablis plays herself and is the star of the show.
Current It-Man Kevin Spacey does a good job with surprisingly little material. Most of the action takes place around Cusack. Spacey only gets to look angry about being in jail, but he does it with style. I'm surprised Spacey didn't get noticed until "American Beauty".
For some reason, they decided the story needed a love interest, so Clint Eastwood wrote his daughter a part. She's adequate, but is hardly given much top do, either. There was no love interest in the book. Little things like that are the things that bug me the most when they adapt novels. Another thing sorely lacking is the simple, dry narrative. If the author, John Berendt, were reading his novel, it would be in kind of a matter-of-fact deadpan. And, well, nobody can deadpan during a film. Cusack could have pulled off a good deadpan, but I guess they didn't
want to give it the Blade Runner treatment.
Crime-thriller fans who haven't read the book will find this movie a kind of pleasant, off-the-wall distraction. Rent it, and then read the book.
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