Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil Review

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Courtroom drama, small town expose and witchcraft-infected magicking in an archetypal southern community.


Based on John Berendt's best selling true life tome, Midnight is a mildly engaging hotchpotch of disparate ideas but a far cry from Eastwood's best.

The action centres on Savannah, Georgia, an archetypal Southern community redolent with customs and mores belonging to a bygone age. Into this time-warped setting comes John Kelso (Cusack), a young New York hack sent by Town And Country magazine to cover the prestigious Christmas party of Jim Williams (Spacey), antiques collector and distinguished citizen.

Yet the post-party status quo is disrupted as Williams is arrested for the murder of his clandestine live-in lover Billy Hanson (Law, once again called upon to embody "volatile youth").

With a murder trial in his lap, Kelso is drawn into both the anachronistic milieu -"It's Gone With The Wind on mescalin" - and the veracity of Williams' self defence plea, deciding to stay on in Savannah to help investigate the case.

Rejecting the powerhouse drive of a Grisham-style trial movie, Eastwood and screenscribe John Hancock overlay the "will Williams walk free?" dynamic with a mosaic depiction of the townsfolk. This approach results in sprawling, languid storytelling that spends far too long wallowing in the minutiae of Savannah's social strata. To compound the wayward structure, Eastwood's direction lacks the fizz to enliven the proceedings.

Between the excesses there are pleasures to be had. Eastwood elicits a plethora of good performances - Spacey neatly adds to his pantheon of cultivated, slimy slicksters, Cusack lends his customary insouciant cool yet both are upstaged by The Lady Chablis as sassy transvestite Chablis Deveau who guides Kelso through the Savannah underworld.

The ambiguous nature of justice is intelligently handled and the outcome of the court verdict does keep you on tenterhooks. However, the lasting impression is that more momentum and less indulgence may well have worked wonders.