* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 1997, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 155 mins
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
PRODUCERS: Clint Eastwood & Arnold Stiefel
SCREENPLAY: John Lee Hancock
MUSIC: Lennie Niehaus
John Cusak as John Kelso
Kevin Spacey as Jim Williams
Jack Thompson as Sonny Seiler
Chablis Deveau as Lady Chablis
Jude Law as Billy Hansford
Irma P Hall as Minerva
Alison Eastwood as Mandy Nichols
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on John Berendt's book which bears the same title, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is an apparently true story set in Savannah, Georgia, during the mid-1970s.
Journalist John Kelso is sent on an assignment to Savannah, Georgia, to write an article on one of wealthy Jim Williams's famous parties.
John intends to merely observe, write his story then return to New York, but he quickly becomes embroiled in an intriguing murder case where closet homosexual Jim Williams is accused of murdering his young lover, Billy Hansford. As well as befriending and supporting Jim through his trial, John also has some interesting encounters with the local drag queen, Lady Chablis, and Minerva, an eerie, eccentric lady who wanders around the local park and graveyard, apparently communicating with the dead and passing messages of both doom and hope to the living.....as well as having an argument with a squirrel!
Simultaneously and a little off to the side, John has a passing interest in Mandy Nichols, an attractive young socialite who makes it clear to him that she'd like to be more than friends.
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is quite a lengthy film, set in the beautiful location of Savannah, Georgia, having more of the quality of a long play than a feature film.
Instantly, the opening scene sets an intriguing mood with batty Minerva sitting on a park bench communicating with a squirrel, whilst a man passes by walking his imaginary dog.....holding a lead, to which a dog collar is attached, minus dog!
From the outset, the acting is superb and I loved John Cusak's slightly bemused, slightly alarmed facial expressions as he gets thrown into life in the fast lane of a small, close, very wealthy Deep South community which hides more than a few strange secrets. The other main cast members also played their parts with a slick, neat perfection.....in fact, the acting throughout is faultless.
I didn't notice too much of the score, although the opening and closing music is K D Lang giving a crystal clear rendition of the old Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer classic, Skylark.
The storyline of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is actually quite basic, being cut and dried. Clint Eastwood has done a superb job of stretching this simple apparently true tale into a long film that is riveting and compelling throughout. Each scene melts perfectly into the next, and there is a little narrative present (spoken by Cusak) which is easy on the ear and not in the slightest bit irritating to listen to. Some interesting camera angles are used, that go a long way towards enhancing an already fascinating atmosphere.
Although (as said) the story of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is a basic one, there are little twists and turns which are neatly inserted, serving to draw out the best from the acting cast, plus the whole film hangs together perfectly.
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is a film which largely concentrates on characterisation rather than story, with there being more than a few eccentrics wandering around the small Savannah community. There is the wonderful, albeit a little scary Minerva, Lady Chablis who makes a better woman than most actual women....being a charmingly astute, yet rather manipulative character, and how can one forget the odd man who bewilders everybody by having a troupe of live buzzing flies suspended on pieces of thin wire which are attached to the his jacket and shirt collar!
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is a strange mix of insanity, sanity, manipulation and eccentricity, also possessing liberal dose of wry, quietly off-the-wall humour for the most part is subtle.
Even though this is a very long film, I was totally drawn in right from the opening scene, and continued to watch, feeling completely absorbed in the story, bemused as to how the peculiar characters interacted with one another in some unexpected ways. I also enjoyed a couple of fairly lengthy courtroom scenes where Jim Williams is on trial for murdering his young lover, Billy Hanson....together with its outcome and the rationale behind what led to the jury's final decision.
The way Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil has been constructed is as close to perfection as anybody could wish for, with Clint Eastwood having paid 100% detail to mood, atmosphere, characterisation and follow-through. I have often mused that Eastwood perhaps makes a far better director than an actor, and this film simply adds weight to my opinion.
Would I recommend Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil? Absolutely! It (in my opinion) is a polished, lightly amusing almost romp-style film....the romp element being intelligent in nature....with strong characterisation and excellent acting from the whole cast. I loved the strangely eccentric people wandering loose, and the beautiful location. Despite its length, this film doesn't contain one single boring moment and there are one or two little surprises which unfold at least expected moments.
This definitely is a film which I am without hesitation earmarking to watch again some day, it being a delightful, polished, classy, well-made and out of the ordinary crime drama which has more than one arrow in its sling.
My advice? Watch it!
At the time of writing, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.95 to £69.36
Used: from 1p to £12.49
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £12.82 (appears to be used)
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Alot of people slate this film and two of my friends walked out when we went to see this, but its one of the best films I've seen from the late 90s. The entire film is shrowded in the eccentric and supernatural atmosphere of a Savvanah that is even odder than in most other potrayals. We see 'yankee' journalist John Cussack travel to Savvanah to cover a christmas party held by millionaire (Kevin Spacey) and come into contact with the towns immensely eccentric characters and become involved in a murder case with supernatural and comic elements. This film is worth watching just for its multitude of unusual charcaters such as the town drag queen, a man who keeps flies on leashes and threatens continiously to poison the water supply, a voodoo woman and a man who walks a dogless leash so as to claim $15 from the dogs dead owner. The story line is also great and the more serious characters of Spacey, Cussack and Eastwood (his daughter, rather than himself who directs the film)are slo very well thought out and performed. Perhaps the best fact about this film is that it is a true story!
Readers of John Berendt's bestselling novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, were bound to be at least somewhat disappointed by this big-screen adaptation, but despite mixed reaction from critics and audiences, there's still plenty to admire about director Clint Eastwood's take on the material. Readers will surely miss the rich atmosphere and societal detail that Berendt brought to his "Savannah story," and the movie can only scratch the surface of Georgian history, tradition and wealthy decadence underlying Berendt's fact-based murder mystery. Still, Eastwood maintains an assured focus on the wonderful eccentrics of Savannah, most notably a gay Savannah antiques dealer (superbly played by Kevin Spacey), who may or may not have killed his friend and alleged lover (Jude Law). John Cusack plays the Town & Country journalist who arrives in Savannah to find much more than he bargained for--including the city's legendary drag queen Lady Chablis (playing "herself")--and John Lee Hancock's smoothly adapted screenplay succeeds in bringing Berendt's characters vividly to life with plenty of flavourful dialogue. --Jeff Shannon