Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is Director Clint Eastwood's latest off-beat flick. A Southern setting, eccentric characters, and the sort of a town that would work best in Stephen King's novels ("Gone With the Wind on Mescaline") are what drive this movie.

The plot, based on the book by John Berendt, is about a rich collector, Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey) who is on trial for the murder of his lover Billy Hanson (Jude Law). The story begins when John Kelso (John Cusack) is invited to cover a Christmas party at Williams' house in Savannah, Georgia. After the party, Kelso is woken by the sound of sirens, and soon learns that Williams and Hanson had an altercation resulting in Hanson's death. Williams is then indicted, and the movie degenerates into a courtroom drama, the outcome of which isn't too surprising.

During the first part, before the trial, the movie is pretty slow. However, there is enough character buildup to keep the audience members who are awake eager to find out exactly what's going to happen. Even though the John Kelso character appears to be the major one in the movie, he is nothing more than a distraction. It is the extraneous characters, including a transvestite, a man with an attachment to flies, an invisible-dog walker, and a voodoo priestess, who are the high points.

The acting is superb, and both Cusack and Alison Eastwood (as Kelso's love interest, Mandy Nichols) are charming. Lady Chablis, the transvestite, as herself manages to incite a few laughs. Spacey is fine as Jim Williams, but somehow he seems to be enjoying himself too much and that just didn't work for me.

Overall, this is an interesting movie. But it does requires an attention span. It is just as well I saw it on the big screen, as seeing it in my house would've made me miss most of it. While I've not read the book, it seems to me that the town of Savannah possessed a spirit of its own, ala the hotel in King's The Shining, but this aspect of it is barely touched upon during the course of the movie.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org