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IN SHORT: Read the book first.
As always, Cranky makes no comparison to the Source Material, the best selling novel by Toni Morrison . . .
. . . which he wishes he had read because after two hours and forty five minutes in the dark, watching Oprah Winfrey's production of Beloved, Cranky hadn't the slightest idea what the heck he had just watched. I may be a dumb white kid from Brooklyn but one thing I have never liked in almost any movie is metaphor. In Beloved, those suckers are laid on thick. Cranky knows he didn't get it because there were at least three occasions in the flick where parts of the audience broke into exuberant laughter and Cranky didn't have the slightest idea why.
Beloved is the story of Sethe (Winfrey), a runaway slave in free Ohio where the story begins in 1865. As we will learn an hour or so in, Sethe will go to any length to ensure that her babies are not taken back across the river, to slavery in Kentucky. The film kicks off with a mayhem resembling something out of an Exorcist-type flick. Crockery is flying, gruesome things happen to the dog. An old lady is dying in the bedroom. It is very unpleasant. No doubt about it, the house is haunted. Village people give it wide berth. The house's hold on its inhabitants is such that Sethe's daughter won't leave its grounds.
Next, it's eight years later and then veer left as Sethe recounts the torturous life she lived as a slave and, have no doubt about it, the recreations of beating and assault are absolutely a most unpleasant viewing experience. She tells the tale to Paul D. (Danny Glover), one of the many slaves who did not get away the night that Sethe did. Paul stays on, in Sethe's bed, breaking an abstinence of eighteen years.
Veer right as an addled brained young lady, bearing the name "Beloved" (Thandie Newton) shows up on the doorstep and is taken into the household as well. Beloved bonds with Sethe's daughter, Denver (Kimberly Elise), who civilizes the girl as best she can. The mystery of who she is and how she came to be is enforced by a truly heart-stopping performance by Newton and, once resolved, the movie veers off again and Beloved disappears into the mist. Did she ever truly exist? Was she a figment of the haunted house's imagination? And what do the townspeople have to do with the trials and tribulations that befall Sethe and her kin? How is the old lady's gospel preaching central to the resolution of the story?
Heck if I know.
All the star power in the world can do nothing more than make you sit it out waiting for that revelation, the "Aha!" moment when your eyes are opened to what is really going on. There is no such moment in Beloved.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Beloved, he would have paid . . .
You shouldn't have to read the book to understand the adaptation.
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