tek's rating: ¾

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikipedia

This came out in 1997, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's based on a book that I haven't read, which itself was loosely based on real events. I'm putting my review in the film noir section, basically because one of the categories assigned to the film on Wikipedia is neo-noir. I'm not entirely sure that fits, but... it's the category I'm perhaps least unsure of fitting. I suppose it could be called "period" (it's set sometime in the 80s), or "crime film", or "mystery", or "drama", or "serio-comedy", or "weird" (I was strongly considering "weird"), but I kind of want to go with "noir," sort of to be kind, I guess. (It would most aptly be called "Southern Gothic," but I don't have such a category, I'm afraid.)

Anyway, a writer from New York named John Kelso (John Cusack) goes to Savannah to write a sort of puff piece about a Christmas party, for Town & Country magazine. When he first arrives, a lawyer named Sonny Seiler wants him to sign a confidentiality agreement, but John refuses. This doesn't bother Sonny's client, Jim Williams, who hosts the annual party. In fact, he invites John to a private party that's held the night before the one John's supposed to write about. But when John says he'd like to cover it, he's vaguely disinvited, as no reporters are allowed. However, that night, John's sleep is interrupted by a knock on his door, from a woman named Mandy (Alison Eastwood), who invites him to the party. There he meets a guy named Joe, who is the life of the party, and who works with Mandy. And... John will see more of Mandy throughout the film, and she becomes a potential love interest.

The next night, John goes to the main party, and Jim shows him around. Then an employee of Jim's named Billy Hanson (Jude Law) shows up and acts very aggressively toward Jim, before finally leaving. Later that night, after John has gone back to the guest house and gone to bed, he's awakened by a major scene involving police and ambulance and whatnot. It seems Jim has shot and killed Billy. The incident intrigues John so much that he decides to drop the article he'd been sent to write, and instead write a book about the shooting. He subsequently begins investigating the incident, and agrees to share anything he learns with Jim and Sonny. The investigation leads him to a transsexual woman named Lady Chablis, who knew Billy. He also meets a voodoo practitioner named Minerva.

And... it's hard to decide what else to say. I don't want to spoil too much, but I will say John believed Jim's story of acting in self defense, and seemed as eager to help prepare Jim's defense as to find material for his book. But I don't want to spoil any specific details of the investigation, or of how the trial goes, or what happens afterward. So I'll just say it's all fairly interesting, in an odd sort of way, that's specific to Savannah. Certainly not a movie I feel the need to ever see again, but I'm sort of glad to have seen it this once.


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