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Laramie Movie Scope:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A slow-moving story loaded with interesting characters and atmosphere

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 24, 1997 -- "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" should be seen in a bar serving only mint juleps on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The idea is to lean back on the back two legs of your chair with your feet up on the table and enjoy a relaxed movie just dripping with southern charm, crazy characters and atmosphere.

This is a very unusual movie for Hollywood and it is unusual for a Clint Eastwood film. It moves at an unhurried pace. It takes its time to develop its characters, and what characters! There's a guy who walks an invisible dog. There's a crazed piano player who likes to throw parties in houses he doesn't own and there's an outrageous drag queen, just to name a few.

The story is a murder mystery and the main suspect, Jim Williams (played by Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey "The Usual Suspects") just drips with that old southern charm. The enigmatic Williams is not what he seems at first. We see different facets of his personality peeled off like layers of an onion as the movie goes along. In the end, we really don't know him at all.

The story, as in the book, is told from the point of view of an outsider, writer John Kelso (John Cusack), who knows a great story when he sees it. He works out a deal with Williams to investigate the case in return for an exclusive book deal.

The investigation leads Kelso to the aforementioned drag queen, the outrageous Lady Chablis, played by Lady Chablis. He, she, or it, adds to the strange atmosphere of the film. The movie was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, where the story takes place. From big mansions to cramped little nightclubs, the film evokes a strong sense of place.

Kelso digs deep and gets some key evidence in the case, which turns into a courtroom drama near the end of the film. Kelso is clever and perceptive, but not as clever as Williams, it turns out. The murder mystery is interesting, almost as interesting as the characters in the film.

In the end, it seems the mystery is not that important after all. If Williams is a killer, he's certainly a charming and polite killer with good manners. Those qualities are abundantly supplied in this movie. While it isn't a great movie, it certainly is a good one, with some outstanding performances. Mostly, however, it is a fine movie for just rocking back, relaxing and savoring with the aid of a mint julep, of course. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)