Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Selma: Oversttuffed And Slow, However Worthy

I saw Selma today with Sharon.
I guess we're both in a really small minority but we both thought the movie was a pretty big yawn though with some strong individual scenes. It was, we thought, near to dead at its core. Inert. I found it dragged and I got impatient with it how slowly it moved.
I think it's troubled by how bathed in righteousness it is. I know it's supposed to humanize King, show him in his self doubt and anxiety and uncertainty. But I didn't much believe it. Next time I'm in one of those states of mind, feeling nervous and such, I'll call Deborah Katchko-Zimmerman at 2:00 am to sing to me so I can hear God's voice. This King, and I'm reporting my reaction not trying to be contrarian for its own sake, bored me to drowsiness.
For me that inertness is underscored by high blown and high sounding and morally exemplary so much of the talk is awash in swelling violins and other heart-moving strings. Not one swear word from any of the movie's exemplars. Not even one "God damn," about Wallace or Clarke or a foot dragging LBJ or the Klan, or after the church bombing or the devastation levelled at the first aborted march across the bridge, or the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson.
My diagnosis of the inertness at the heart of this movie is its failure to make compelling drama out of the great themes it deals with, overstuffed with the glow of righteousness it bathes its exemplars in, the to-me contrived anxiety the movie is intent in showing King suffering from. There's no real internal tension of the movie that grabs you and and pulls you in. It wants to make history into art and it tries way too hard with, as noted, the pompous dialogue--no one talks that way--basking in musical crescendos. 
I thought the scene between Johnson and Wallace, while not the greatest scene ever, Wilkinson failing I thought in conveying the power and complexity of LBJ, Tim Roth--and I'm in a minority here--was pretty good as Wallace, crackled with some real drama and than did any of the dead scenes between the exemplars, including between King and Coretta King. Oprah Winfrey mind you was just great in her small role. She is a vastly under-rated actress and conveys almost innately authentic emotional complexity and pain. 
I obviously appreciate the magnificence of the historic achievement but this movie, despite some of its powerful moments, is for me, in a word, soporific. 
P.S. I don't have any quarrel with how the movie presented the history or its treatment of LBJ.

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