Monday, December 12, 2016

"Loving" delivers lively performances, little love

Loving Review
The story of Richard and Mildred Loving is actually an incredible story. An interracial couple who fell in love and married in 1958. They lived in Virginia, which was a state that didn't allow interracial marriage, and the couple was jailed, more than once and banished from the state. The family relocated to Washington D.C. and fought to go back to their home-state to raise their family. They worked in the legal system and eventually their case was taken to the Surpreme Court where deeming interracial marriage illegal was unconstitutional and they eventually came back to Virginia.

That's an incredible story. I felt with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga playing Richard and Mildred, the film was in good hands. When I saw that Jeff Nichols was directing the film, I figured it was in good hands. I mean, Jeff Nichols has directed "Take Shelter," my favorite film of 2011, he directed "Mud" one of my favorite films of 2013, and he also directed "Midnight Special" which came out earlier this year, and yes its one of my favorites of the year so far. Jeff Nichols is easily one of the most gifted directors working right now, and each film he makes certainly doesn't feel like his others, which is a good thing. I certainly wouldn't compare "Loving" to anything else in that list above. Creating a completely original filmography is definitely good for any artist.

But is that all "Loving" is good for? Of all the movies Jeff Nichols has made so far, "Loving" is the least alive out of the bunch. The entire movie feels like its moving in slow motion, never picking up slack or speed. There is usually a rough, edgy anesthetic to Nichol's films, and in the rough times of the racist South, I thought I'd be able to feel that anesthetic, but its completely missing here. I can't believe a movie about such a prolific case could be so boring. 

Ruth Negga has definitely emerged as a discovery over the last few years. She was someone of interest when she appeared on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and I really enjoyed her work on AMC's "Preacher." She does fantastic work here, and her chemistry with Joel Edgerton is quaint yet delightful. There is a quiet resilience that builds between the two of them, and while its subtle, it can be overwhelming at times. There is no doubt that both Negga and Edgerton came to work for this, its just that the script let's them down. Its a laundry list of cliches. A film like this should feel angry and urgent and while the lead performances are good, it never quite reaches that urgency.

Martin Csokas appears as the cliched racist cop who is mostly a thorn in the lead's side throughout the film. That's his only purpose, all though he does it well. Of course, this being a Jeff Nichols film, Michael Shannon shows up and he has a nice performance. Even if its brief. The biggest surprise is Nick Kroll, a usual funny-man who delivers a sweet performance of real dramatic purpose.

I wish I could say I tumbled on the floor as hard as everyone else did for this one. I should note that its absolutely worth seeing. Sensitivity in this movie is good, dignity in a movie like this good, but there was not enough emotionality needed to make this movie work completely. Which is rather surprising, since Nichols usually gets that done in his sleep. Its far from a bad movie, just lacks forward momentum.


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