Friday, September 22, 2006

Southern discomfort

"Time brings all things to light." That's the tagline for All the King's Men. I looked forward to this film when it was scheduled for release last year. For whatever reason that can't be good, it was delayed, and my interest was diluted. So when the opportunity arose to watch a sneak preview Thursday night, I proceeded cautiously.

The movie attempts to sell itself as a great American story of politics and power, and boasts an all-star cast loaded with Oscar and Emmy recognition. But, as time brought things to light, it was all an act of desperation in the name of prestige. This film does not measure up. Or constitute a halfway decent drama.

In what amounts to a phenomenal irony, one of the film's many problems is its casting. The filmmakers secured a terrific lineup of actors, but almost all of them play roles that do not suit them. The film is set in Louisiana; where are the Southerners? Sean Penn is Californian.
Mark Ruffalo and James Gandolfini are Northerners. Jude Law and Kate Winslet are British. Anthony Hopkins is Welsh. Only New Orleans-born Patricia Clarkson was a sensible hire.

I can get past the miscasting and exaggerated accents if the dialogue is good, but this movie was wrong all over. Bad writing, bad direction, bad editing. The plot was needlessly non-linear, excessively slow, and over-narrated. Worst of all, the film makes no sense, but the filmmakers managed to edit around whatever politics and corruption that was taking place. I never read the Pulitzer-winning book, or saw the Oscar-winning 1949 film, so I don't know how the source material got mistranslated.

The second worst thing about this film is Sean Penn. Playing a man of the people who gets elected governor, he forces an unintelligible Southern accent and chews whatever scenery is around, swaying his body and shaking his arms more than Jamie Foxx did as Ray Charles. It's Oscar bait so blatant that it's actually quite horrible to watch. This isn't immersion; it's mimicry. I hope that the reaction to this film is so negative that his performance is disregarded. But after Philip Seymour Hoffman swept awards season last year, I have every reason to be skeptical.

Even 55 Fiction Friday couldn't put this film together again.

The disappearing act was old hat for Waldo. About as old as his actual hat, striped red and white, like his shirt. He knew not to hide among the greenery; the color contrast was too telling. He got comfortable behind a flagpole and waited.

Unbeknownst to Waldo, people had stopped looking for him years ago.


Absent-minded Secretary said...

Poor Waldo.

Thinking Fool said...

I can't believe you're knocking Hoffman's performance in Capote. He was amazing.

PG said...

Excellent 55 fiction.