Focus Features / Big Beach Films
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and ethnic slurs
Poignant Period Piece Recounts The Forbidden Romance That Led To Landmark Supreme Court Decision
Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga) and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) committed a crime just by falling in love when they were in the bloom of youth back in 1958. That’s because she was black and he was white, and they were living in Virginia, one of the many Southern states with anti-miscegenation laws still on the books forbidding cohabitation, marriage, procreation or even sexual relations across racial lines.
Nevertheless, Richard was so smitten he proposed and, after Mildred accepted, he purchased a vacant plot of land where he promised to build their dream home. However, when it came to time to wed, they had to travel north to Washington, DC, a city where they could secure a marriage license.
Upon returning to their tiny hometown of Central Point, they were promptly arrested during a nighttime raid staged by policemen tipped off about the recent nuptials. They charged the couple with violating section 20-58 of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a felony punishable with up to five years in prison.
The Lovings were ultimately convicted, but fled to the District of Columbia rather than serve their sentences, especially since Mildred was expecting their first child by then. What a tragedy it was for them not only to be fugitives of justice, but to be forced to start their family in a strange big city, when they already had a place to live, if it weren’t for state-sanctioned racial intolerance.
Five years later, their plight came to the attention of Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Phil Hirshkop (Jon Bass), attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The lawyers talked Mildred and Richard into lending their names as plaintiffs in a suit challenging the Constitutionality of Virginia’s longstanding statute prohibiting interracial marriage.
The beleaguered couple agreed, and the appellate process worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court which agreed to hear the case. “Tell the judge I love my wife,” Richard implored the ACLU legal team preparing the oral argument.
On June 12, 1967, the Court announced that it had arrived at a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. He declared that Virginia had violated the Lovings’ rights to both Equal Protection and Due Process as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud), Loving carefully chronicles the life and times of an unassuming couple reluctantly thrust into the national limelight by a landmark legal case. The production features endearing performances by leads Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton who generate a quiet, yet convincing screen chemistry portraying Mildred and Richard as modest working-class heroes.
A poignant period piece about a pair of practically-saintly role models well-deserving of their iconic status in the annals of American jurisprudence.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 123 minutes
A24 / Plan B Entertainment
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, pervasive profanity, ethnic slurs and graphic violence
Gay Ghetto Kid Struggles With His Sexual Awakening In Homoerotic Coming Of Age Flick
It isn’t bad enough that Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert/Ashton Sanders/Trevante Rhodes) is being raised by an emotionally-unavailable, drug-addicted, single mom (Naomie Harris). The shy youngster also has the misfortune of having to hide the fact that he’s gay, since he’s experiencing pangs of sexual awakening in the midst of an African-American, ghetto culture which is homophobic to the point of violence.
Consequently, he finds himself not only being teased for being a “faggot” by a school bully (Patrick Decile) but sadistically beaten to a pulp by his best friend and secret lover, Kevin (Jaden Piner/Jharrel Jerome/Andre Holland). This sorry state of affairs has understandably left the closeted kid terribly confused.
Fortunately, Chiron’s mom’s dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali), and his wife, Teresa (Janelle Monae), have taken a personal interest in his welfare. They let Chiron crash at their crib whenever things get crazy at his dysfunctional mom’s apartment. So, at least he has a father figure, even if it’s the person pushing the poison that turned his mother into an irresponsible crack whore.
Such are the dire circumstances collaborating to torpedo the troubled protagonist’s potential in Moonlight, a homoerotic coming of age flick written and directed by Barry Jenkins (Medicine For Melancholy). The introspective mood piece follows the lead character’s evolution from age nine into adulthood, with Chiron and Kevin each being played by a trio of different actors.
The picture convincingly conveys the sheer desperation of an abandoned street urchin searching for an oasis of sanity in a hostile world without refuge. Though this picture never offers any easy answers, it certainly will nevertheless resonate with countless black gays who’ve survived similar abuse during formative years spent negotiating their way through a merciless, macho, inner-city gauntlet
A decidedly-dystopic, African-American answer to the relatively-sedate, suburban bildungsroman served up by Boyhood!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 110 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening November 11, 2016
Almost Christmas (PG-13 for profanity, drug use and suggestive content) Holiday comedy about a dysfunctional family’s first Thanksgiving gathering since the passing of its beloved matriarch. Ensemble cast includes Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Danny Glover, Mo’Nique, Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, J.B. Smoove and Romany Malco.
Arrival (PG-13 for brief profanity) Sci-fi thriller about a linguist (Amy Adams) recruited by the military to lead an elite team investigating why a dozen alien spacecraft have landed at different locations around the planet. With Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (R for violence, sexuality, pervasive profanity and brief drug use) Ang Lee directed this adaptation of the Ben Fountain best seller of the same name revolving around a 19-year-old, Iraq War vet (Joe Alwyn) who becomes disenchanted with being celebrated as a military hero while back in the States between tours of duty. With Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel and Chris Tucker.
Shut In (PG-13 for terror, violence, bloody images, nudity, mature themes and brief profanity) Suspense thriller revolving around a recently-widowed, child psychologist (Naomi Watts) who becomes convinced that the ghost of a former patient (Jacob Tremblay) has been haunting her and her bed-ridden son (Charlie Heaton). Support cast includes Oliver Platt, Clementine Poidatz and David Cubitt.
The Anthropologist (Unrated) Climate change documentary assessing the prospects of the planet from the perspective of the 15-year-old daughter of an anthropology professor studying the impact of global warming on indigenous peoples.
Elle (R for violence, profanity, rape, brief graphic nudity, disturbing sexuality and grisly images) Cat-and-mouse revenge thriller revolving around a business executive’s (Isabelle Huppert) attempt to track down the stranger who raped her right in her own home. With Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny and Charles Berling. (In French with subtitles)
The Fiancé (Unrated) Monster flick about a beautiful bride-to-be (Carrie Keagan) who is transformed into a brutal beast after being bitten by the legendary creature known as Bigfoot (Douglas Tait). Featuring Dallas Valdez, Curt Lambert and Danni Lang.
Lazy Eye (Unrated) Homoerotic romantic dramedy set in L.A. where a graphic designer (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) makes the most of an opportunity to rekindle a relationship with an ex (Aaron Costa Ganis) he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Support cast features Michaela Watkins, Drew Barr and Harrison Givens.
The Love Witch (Unrated) Horror comedy about a witch (Samantha Robinson) who resorts to casting spells on potential suitors during her desperate quest to find Mr. Right. Cast includes Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell and Gian Keys.
National Bird (Unrated) Whistleblower documentary in which three veterans plagued by guilt express their misgivings about participating in the U.S. Air Force’s drone warfare program. (In English and Dari with subtitles)
No Pay, Nudity (R for pervasive profanity) Character-driven dramedy set in Manhattan and revolving around an aging actor making adjustments to diminished career expectations. With Nathan Lane, Frances Conroy, Jon Michael Hill and Ethan Sandler.
Seasons (PG for mature themes) Meteorological documentary observing assorted metamorphoses in nature during the changing of the seasons. (In French with subtitles)
The Similars (Unrated) Sci-fi horror flick, set in October of 1968, revolving around eight strangers headed to Mexico City who find themselves attacked by a mysterious virus while sitting in a bus station waiting room. Ensemble cast includes Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Fernando Becerril and Humberto Busto. (In Spanish with subtitles)
USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage (R for violent images and brief profanity) Mario Van Peebles directed this World War II tale of survival recounting the Japanese submarine torpedo attack on a U.S. Navy ship claiming the lives of over 2/3 of the 1,197 American sailors aboard the vessel. Co-starring Nicolas Cage, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane.