Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 14, No. 30, Ed. 1 Friday, November 21, 1997 Page: 25 of 80
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ball for black debutantes.
Despite Williams' apparent popular-
ity, a grand jury returns a murder one
indictment, the judge refuses him bail
and several of his so-called friends
refuse to testify on his behalf. Their
casual conversation shows that none of
them objects to murder, but a gay mur-
der is something else again. Selena
(Dorothy Loudon), a local doyenne,
says, "Jim picked a very unseemly way
to exit the closet." Though it's working
against him this time, Sonny speaks of
"savin' face in the light of unpleasant
circumstances — it's the Savannah
Mandy (Alison Eastwood, the direc-
tor's daughter who looks like a prettier
Kyra Sedgwick), a love interest con-
trived for Kelso to keep the movie
straight if not narrow, notes, "The gen-
eral rule is rich people get off. Trouble
is, they're usually straight." John asks
her if Jim could be "hanged for his sex-
uality" and she says, "Yeah. That would
never happen in New York, would it?"
Sonny, who "can weave horseshit
into Egyptian cotton," tries to keep the
district attorney, who's up for re-elec-
tion, from playing the gay card; but
once he does Sonny turns it to their
advantage, using it to discredit Billy's
best friend, George Tucker (Michael
Rosenbaum), who testifies about the
relationship between Jim and Billy. "I
ain't no fairy . . ." Tucker claims. "I've
had some experiences but I'm out of it
now." It turns out he's been an "ex-gay"
for "almost three weeks."
The point of Chablis' testimony,
Kelso warns, will be that "because Billy
Hanson hung out with drag queens he
deserved to die": but the lady has other
ideas: "I'm gonna use their courtroom
as a coming-out par-TAY." And she
does, moving to the head of the drag
queen class in an Eat-your-heart-out,
Jim worries how his testimony will
affect his mother (Anne Haney). John
assures him she already knows he's gay
but Jim says, "Not from me, she does-
Sonny glosses over the gay question
in his closing argument: "We deal with
these people all the time, some good
and some bad. They're part of our com-
munity ..." He probably used the same
John Cusack portrays John
Kelso, a writer who gets
caught up in the murder and
speech for an African American client
three decades ago — well, maybe two.
If I had read Berendt's book I'd be
drawing comparisons to the nth detail,
but since I haven't I'll use the standard
critical copout that my job is to review
the movie, not the book. From the over-
abundance of detail Eastwood lavishes
on the film, one can sense how rich the
book must be. (But with such attention
to detail, how did the line get in that
Cusack wears a "44 long" jacket?)
There's a terrific soundtrack, largely
made up of songs by Savannah's
Johnny Mercer. (Williams lived in
Mercer House, which had been in the
composer's family for generations.) It
opens with k.d. lang singing "Skylark"
and closes with a totally non-twangy
Alison Krauss singing "This Time the
Dream's on Me." Good stuff.
So is Midnight in the Garden of Good
and Evil. It's not just another movie
about a gay murderer, but a movie that
presents all kinds of people of various
colors and persuasions and lets you
draw your own conclusions. ▼
Opens Friday in wide release.
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 14, No. 30, Ed. 1 Friday, November 21, 1997, newspaper, November 21, 1997; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth616180/m1/25/?q=RIO%20VISTA: accessed October 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.