Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oh, how CC loved "American Violet"

You know those little Civil Liberties rants I go on about the hideous unfairness of the way drug raids are conducted?

Well, I just saw a law movie that played to my sympathies and view of the world in a way no law movie since "Inherit the Wind" has.

That movie was "American Violet" a movie based on the experiences of real life plaintiff Regina Kelly, an innocent African-American woman caught up in a racially-motivated drug sweep* and arrested on drug charges who sued Robertson county district attorney John Paschall and won a decent settlement, a restructuring of the county drug task force and a promise to stop the raids.

This being Texas, Paschall is still the DA.**

The acting in American Violet is absolutely first rate. Newcomer Nicole Beharie plays the plaintiff in the case, renamed "Dee Roberts" for the movie. She is perfect in the role as a woman clean cut and obviously intelligent enough to be a perfect candidate for an ACLU test case, yet with a nasty temper that gets her into an altercation with her ex-husband, getting herself arrested and making things harder for her in same sort of way that people make things harder for themselves all the time in real life. This is not a movie with Inherit the Wind's brilliant speeches and stirring writing, but there's a realness to it that makes it more engaging than the two-hour Law and Order episode I was expecting.

For me, the true standout performance was Alfre Woodard as Dee's mother, who takes care of Dee's children while she was in jail and spends a good three quarters of the movie trying to convince Dee to take the easy way out, first to accept a plea bargain, then to drop the lawsuit. As y'all know, I follow this stuff, so I went in there knowing what had happened in Hearne, Texas and that the real-life equivilent of Dee's character really did make real change and that the story had a happy ending. I assumed the movie would turn out the same way, but Woodard's performance was such that I was almost rooting for her at times and there was never a second that I didn't know where she was coming from and that she felt the way she did because she loved Dee and loved her grandchildren and wanted what was best for them.

And ya know? I'm on Alfre Woodard's side naturally. When I read about a criminal case, I am usually the pragmatist, the one who looks at how much time a plea would save and how risky the trial would be. In all aspects of my life except possibly blogging, I'm pretty quick to compromise, even when I'm pretty sure I'm right since most battles cost more (money, time, emotional energy) to fight than they do to lose. I'm a picker of battles and I generally don't pick ones that I think I'm likely to lose. Linguist Friend calls me "conservative by temperment." I'm not ashamed of being that way and one of my favorite things about Obama is that he seems to share that quality.

But I left American Violet left me wanting to more carefully examine my battles as to make sure they aren't worth fighting and to be a better person. And yes, one day, Bar permitting, a better lawyer.

That's about all a girl can ask from an afternoon at the movies.

who, in other news, is so glad "The Soloist" is finally in theaters and will thus soon be gone as she has accidentally subjected herself to the preview about five times in the six months it has been playing in theaters. If you've been reading the Chaliceblog awhile, I'm sure you can imagine that if the designers of this movie that begins with a horrible bicycle accident and centers around a schizophrenic musical prodigy WANTED to design a movie to mess with Chalicechick's head, they couldn't have done a better job.

*Similar to the infamous one in Tulia, Texas though smaller in scale.

** And it's not just Texas. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee was just as bad and Louisianans would probably re-elect his corpse were it possible to do so.

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