Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) / Drama-Mystery
MPAA Rated: R for language and brief violence
Running Time: 155 min.
Cast: John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Jack Thompson, Alison Eastwood
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: John Lee Hancock (based on the book by John Berendt)
Review published May 21, 1998
Writer John Kelso (Cusack, Bullets Over Broadway) travels to Savannah to write for a magazine on the home of Jim Williams (Spacey, LA Confidential) , but the story turns out to be not so much his house, but the murder that takes place in it. It seems that Mr. Williams shot his gay lover to death and now faces trial because there is no evidence of gun powder burns on the victims hands that support Williams' self-defense claims. Kelso now turns his attention to the trial in hopes of finally writing a best-selling book on the events that take place subsequently.
The film is slow, clocking in at about 2 1/2 hours, and seems to have very few things to say and takes its sweet time saying them. Many of you may be put of at its slowness and pointlessness, but I found myself interested throughout due to the colorful characters and strange events that take place.
Of course this is based on the bestseller of the same name, and I hear that those who have read the book are not as pleased with this film as those who have not, like myself. The performances and people portrayed were so interesting, I actually did not want the film to end, despite its length and slowness.
Cusack does very well in an untypically serious and bland role, and Spacey is brilliantly engaging as usual. Director Eastwood (A Perfect World, Unforgiven) proves once again that his acting talents aren't his only ones, in one of only two films he has directed that, at this point, do not star himself, although his daughter (Alison Eastwood, Poolhall Junkies) plays a prominent role as Cusack's love interest.
Don't rush into this film expecting a gripping and taut courtroom drama. Just relax and let the story and people of Savannah weave it's spell and you will be rewarded greatly.
©1998 Vince Leo