THERE WAS NO WAY I COULD stop the color in my face from draining. I was in a state of shock. It was an hour before I was going to get off from work and the owner of the company had called me into his office. I knew him better than some of the other employees because I worked both in the retail and wholesale parts of his company, when I wasn’t in school. In fact, when he opened a 2ndstore in a large shopping mall out in the suburbs, I helped set up the shelves with stock. So, when he asked me into his office, I did not think much of it. When he closed the door behind me as I walked in, I knew something was different. As I sat across from him, he began to tell me about the inventory being off, that items were coming up missing. I thought maybe he wanted me to take a bigger part of the inventory process, but that was not the case. He asked me if I had seen anything odd going on. I told him no and that I was surprised to hear such a thing. My face had not turned white up to this point; however, when he said he wanted to talk to my parents I could feel my face changing. He said he was asking the same of the other employees who were also in high school. EMBARRASSMENT, FEAR AND ANGER WERE THE predominant feelings coursing through my body as I sat there. Despite not having any knowledge about the missing stock, I was angry that I was being considered a suspect. Logically I knew it made sense for the owner to question his employees; but I still felt like I was being accused of something I had no part in. It was an awful feeling. My mind was showing me a series of movie scenes depicting courthouses, jails, tearful testimonies; my imagination was running amok. The other thing that came to mind was the possibility I might be considered an accomplice because I was friendly with the other employees. The anger portion I was feeling was due to the idea one of my friends, who I had been working alongside with for over one year, could be a thief. It was all upsetting to me, and I did not know how my parents would take the news about them having to come in to talk to the owner. All this hassle and confusion just because I essentially was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The magnitude of my situation didn’t come close to the main character’s situation in this dramatic film based on a true story; but I understood what he had to be feeling. LIVING ON DEATH ROW, ONE DOESN’T get hopeful; even when your Harvard educated lawyer is willing to fight for your life. With Brie Larson (Captain Marvel, Short Term 12) as Eva Ansley, Michael B. Jordan (Creed franchise, Black Panther) as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx (Robin Hood, Ray) as Walter McMillian, Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Ralph Myers; the story in this film festival winning movie was horrifying to me at times due to the injustice and discrimination that was taking place. The acting was strong and solid from the cast; in fact, they really carried the story along. For most of the time I took the script to be truthful; however, there were a couple of scenes, especially one close to the end, where I felt it was the writer’s option to make something up to pull in the audience deeper into the story. Besides that, I still cannot get over what Walter had to go through for all those years.
Wow, I was both horrified and mesmerized throughout this movie. I could not take my eyes off of Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Rabbit Hole), who was an outrageous southern woman named Charlotte Bless. Honestly, when you think of Nicole you think of a statuesque, porcelain skinned, reserved woman. She was exactly opposite in this thriller with her heavy makeup and tough talking. The director and writer Lee Daniels (Precious, Shadowboxer) deserves credit for getting Nicole to do some of the things she did in this film based on a true story. The tale was about Ward Jansen, played by Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, Magic Mike), returning to his hometown in Florida to investigate the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter, played by John Cusack (Martian Child, High Fidelity). With his brother Jack, played by Zac Efrom (The Lucky One, Charlie St. Cloud), Ward used Charlotte as a way to get a meeting with HIllary; since she was engaged to the inmate. Ward’s investigation would cause some dangerous repercussions that would be felt by all. Parts of the movie were highly textured, filled with intense acting and southern gothic atmosphere. But then there would be scenes that plopped down with a thud. John Cusack was unbelievable with his ugly creepiness, while Matthew let his southern drawl coat the intensity that was simmering just below his surface. Once again, Zac was the weak one of the cast. Granted he is trying his hardest to break away from his pretty boy sweetness, but casting him with much better actors only showcase his limited acting abilities. Even his unscripted dance scene in the rain with Nicole, wearing only his underpants deserved extra points; it simply was not enough to make his acting blend in with the others. The movie is worthy of seeing for Nicole’s crazy performance. She may have just acted her way to an Oscar nomination this year. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars