The Mark Childress page                     
Crazy, the Movie


Selected reviews


Banderas's 'Crazy in Alabama' is serious fun

By Jay Carr, Boston Globe, 10/22/99

Struggling Southern gothic eccentricity and civil rights advocacy, ''Crazy in Alabama'' represents a challenging directing debut for Antonio Banderas. To his credit, he and the film land on their feet. Although it's ungainly and disjointed in places, ''Crazy in Alabama'' is carried by the larger-than-life character played by Melanie Griffith. Never has a woman been more lovingly directed by her real-life husband in a Hollywood film.

But the effort is well invested. Griffith makes her character's sexual flamboyance work. She makes it seem simultaneously easy and over the top as an oppressed woman determined to break out of her Alabama backwater
and become a Hollywood star.

The hard part is getting out from under the thumb of her abusive brute of a husband. Once she murders him and flees with his severed head in a hatbox, such details as car theft and batting her eyes at a succession of men ranging from smalltown sheriffs to Hollywood agents are, to Griffith's Lucille, child's play. Griffith and Banderas poke sly fun at the roles to which a woman like Lucille is limited in the 1960s, when the film takes place, making her a cheerful survivor who just plunges in and makes the best of things. Not only does she have to make Lucille's extreme behavior entertaining and funny, which she does, she must keep Lucille sympathetic. This she does too.

Irresponsible as it may seem that she should have placed her brood of children in the care of others, Lucille convinces us that she loves them in her outsize way.

The story is narrated by Lucille's oldest teenage son, Peejoe, played with dewy sentience and stubborn decency by Lucas Black in an appealing performance. He and his younger brother are stashed with their uncle, Lucille's older brother, Dove, who works in a funeral home. David Morse is always affecting in his understated way, and he makes this role work too, although he and the boys have their hands full sustaining the film's other major plot strand, the serious one focused on the civil strife of the '60s. Meat Loaf Aday brings presence to a caricatured mean bigot sheriff. And the film deftly handles the part of the story that involves the boys nudging their uncle into the struggle.

The pieces don't always fit together smoothly, but there's a lot of flavorful work to savor, including Rod Steiger's judge, who brings off the tough job of tying together the film's comic and serious strands in a spirited climactic trial scene. There's not quite enough craziness in the slightly overlong ''Crazy in Alabama,'' but neither is it negligible. The civil rights story is played with conviction and achieves impact. Griffith tempers Lucille's lunatic kewpie doll quality with scatty warmth, to say nothing of strategically deployed slashes of scarlet lipstick. Lucille becomes sympathetic because she convinces us she's a woman who will not be defeated by an unpromising set of day-in-day-out
circumstances, even if she has to stage her own civil rights protest. So it is with ''Crazy in Alabama.'' Its joinery can be faulted, but it's always simpatico.

This story ran on page C07 of the Boston Globe on 10/22/99.

© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.


by JACK GARNER
Gannett News Service

Banderas-directed movie ties diverse stories into clever package

Two wildly diverse stories dovetail into an entertainingwhole in Crazy in Alabama, a '60s-era Southern saga that marks the impressive directorial debut of Antonio Banderas.

Melanie Griffith makes the film a husband-and-wife
triumph by starring as Lucille, the flamboyant woman at
the center of one of the stories.

Crazy in Alabama is adapted from the 1993 best-selling
novel by Mark Childress. Lucille is a glamorous, eccentric woman who dreams of Hollywood stardom. As the film opens, she's just escaped her abusive husband by
killing him. (She keeps his severed head at her side, hidden in a hatbox, throughout the saga. She wants him to see how well she succeeds without him.)

Before leaving Alabama for Hollywood, Lucille leaves her half-dozen children with relatives. There she's also reunited with a favorite nephew, 12-year-old Peejoe (Lucas Black of Slingblade.)

The story then shifts to Peejoe, who is discovering his social consciousness. Integration demonstrations are fomenting among African-Americans in his Alabama
hometown. Peejoe gets caught in the middle when he sees the local sheriff kill a 12-year-old black boy during a sitdown at the local whites-only swimming pool.
Peejoe is forced to take a stand.

For the remainder of Crazy in Alabama, Banderas cleverly shifts between the two narrative threads. He also manages to balance two distinct tones: the darkly
comedic flavor of Lucille's story and the earnest drama of Peejoe's civil rights exploits.

Banderas shows a distinct visual flair, including upbeat color schemes and camera movements that reflect the influence of his mentor, Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish director who made him a star.

Viewers may initially be puzzled at how the film's two tales can possibly come together, and yet they do, in an emotionally satisfying fashion.

Crazy in Alabama also benefits from a strong acting ensemble. Griffith is wacky and poignant as the ambitious Lucille, while Lucas Black delivers a touching portrayal of a coming-of-age youth challenged by events.

Crazy in Alabama

The Basics:
A bizarre blend of a coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, and a comedy plot involving an abused housewife who murders her husband, cuts off his head and takes it with her as she flees to become a star in Hollywood. Starring Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Meat Loaf Aday. Directed by Antonio Banderas.


Banderas directs a poignant tale of 'Alabama'

By Michael H. Kleinschrodt Movie critic

While "Crazy in Alabama" delivers the laughs promised in Columbia Pictures' promotions, it is much more than a madcap road movie. First-time director Antonio Banderas has crafted a poignant tale of the Civil Rights struggle in the South that will resonate with those who lived through it and inform generations born since.

Adapted by Mark Childress from his 1994 novel, the movie kicked off the New Orleans Film & Video Festival earlier this month and opens nationwide today.

Set during the summer of 1965, "Crazy in Alabama" chronicles the different paths two characters travel to the realization that freedom is worth fighting for.

Melanie Griffith, who is married to Banderas, stars as Lucille, an Industry, Ala., housewife who kills her bullying husband so that she can run off to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of television stardom. Meanwhile, her favorite nephew, Peejoe (Lucas Black), becomes something of a national hero when he speaks up about the Industry sheriff's accidental killing of Taylor Jackson (Louis Miller), a teen who had led a sit-in at a whites-only swimming pool.

Although much of the film was shot in the Houma-Thibodeaux area, which stood in for Industry, New Orleans figures in the story during Lucille's run for Los Angeles. Among the local landmarks in the film are Pirate Alley, Jean Lafitte's bar and Lakefront Airport. The cast includes Marva Wright, who leads a church group in song during a poolside protest after the killing.

Griffith ("Working Girl," "Something Wild") is perfect as Lucille, who proves that she has star quality when she lands a recurring role on "Bewitched." Griffith has always shown a certain vulnerability on screen that serves the browbeaten Lucille quite well.

Black ("Sling Blade") brings an authentic Alabama accent to his role as Peejoe, short for Peter Joseph. Black excels in scenes that require him to project a quiet strength in the face of great injustice, particularly when Peejoe has to counter the threats of the Bull Connorish sheriff with a blackmail attempt aimed at helping his Aunt Lucille.

The sheriff is played by singer-actor Meat Loaf Aday ("Fight Club," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"). Aday is the film's real revelation, managing to invest the vile Sheriff John Doggett with the suggestion of an essential humanity. This is Aday's best acting work to date.

You'd never know that "Crazy in Alabama" was Banderas' first directorial effort. He proves that he understands how to use the medium of film to tell a story. Audiences will not forget the shot of the slain teen's younger brother, David (New Orleans' own
Carl LeBlanc III), floating peacefully in the pool, his arms extended to form the shape of a cross, after the poolside protest is broken up by club-wielding white men.

It also helps that Childress himself adapted his novel for the screen. If the script had gone through the usual Hollywood tag team of writers, the characters undoubtedly would have become caricatures. Childress has kept them true to his creations. "Crazy in Alabama" is one more example of the quality that can be achieved in a film when proper respect is paid to the writer's role.

CRAZY IN ALABAMA

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Lucas Black, Meat Loaf Aday, David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, John Beasley and Rod Steiger

Credits: Directed by Antonio Banderas; written by Mark Childress, adapting his 1994 novel. A Columbia Pictures release. 1
hour 44 minutes.

Rating: PG-13, for language, violence

Where: Lakeside, Esplanade, Palace, Hammond Palace, Belle Promenade





New York Post

CRAZY FOR 'ALABAMA'
By LOU LUMENICK

NO one can accuse Antonio Banderas of playing it
safe with his movie directing debut, "Crazy in
Alabama," which showcases his wife, Melanie
Griffith, as a mad husband-murderer against the
background of the civil rights struggle in the South.

This seriously demented hybrid of "Thelma Louise" and "To Kill a Mockingbird," adapted by
Mark Childress from his 1993 novel, contains some
dizzying transitions between farce and drama. But
it's quite entertaining on its own wacky terms.

The more prominent of the two widely divergent
stories is pure Southern Gothic farce. As the film
opens, it's 1965 and Lucille is saying goodbye to her
seven children and setting out for Hollywood,
having just done in her abusive husband, Chester,
with rat poison.

She's cut off his head with an electric knife and
placed it in a Tupperware container on the front
seat of her Mustang convertible.

No one is more confused about this turn of events
than her adoring young nephew Peejoe (Lucas
Black), an orphan in whom she's confided her
show-biz aspirations. He's entrusted to the care of
Lucille's brother Dove (David Morse), a
mild-mannered undertaker, after Sheriff Doggett
(Meat Loaf) starts pressing the youngster for
details of his aunt's whereabouts.

Peejoe gets involved with his own drama when a
group of black kids tries to integrate the municipal
pool. Peejoe is the only witness as Dogett pulls
down a youth climbing a fence, leading to his death.

Meanwhile, Aunt Lucille, who has already robbed a
New Orleans bar and seduced a sheriff, her agent
and a TV producer, among others, nabs a
supporting character opposite Dick York on
"Bewitched." But she's also carried her husband's
head to a Hollywood party, where things unravel
hilariously. Will Lucille become the second woman
in a movie this fall (after "Double Jeopardy") to get
away with murdering her husband?

Banderas gets wonderful performances from his
cast (including Robert Wagner, Paul Mazursky and
Rod Steiger) but has no ear at all for Southern
accents. The sweetly endearing craziness of
Griffith is an effective contrast to the quiet intensity
of Black, who was so wonderful in "Sling Blade."

"Crazy in Alabama" risks trivializing history and
pandering to feminist fantasies, but it may be the
year's most fearless movie.

E-Mail This Story to a


Mr SHOWBIZ



"A winning work of small charms and praise-worthy performances."

Glenn Whipp
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

"Griffith works it, in the best role she's had since "Working Girl."
Steve Murray
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION

""Crazy in Alabama" is a delightful film, mixing screwball comedy with serious themes. It is filled with wonderful secondary characters, played by some of the best character actors in the business. Lucas Black is
wonderful in the film and has an authentic accent. There are many witty and inventive touches in the movie. Director Antonio Banderas has done a surprisingly good job of capturing Southern culture. Meat Loaf makes yet
another strong appearance, he can really act."

Richard Nilsen
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

"Antonio Banderas offers a poignant view of his take on life through a strong story that is emotional and funny at the same time. Banderas is quite imaginative in his depiction of the story, using stylish dissolves and clever segues. Griffith?s best performance yet. She brings a diverse character -- sexy yet tragic, amusing yet sad -- effectively to the screen. This is accomplished under the direction of her husband. Meat Loaf Aday is exceptionally good as the corrupt sheriff. John Beasly is poignant and superb. Lucas Black is a young star on the rise, and with good reason.
"Crazy in Alabama" unfolds elements with unwavering indulgence, and Banderas gives the audience characters they can care about. Banderas and Griffith, already on a high note as one of Hollywood's happiest couples, may have something else to cheer about come March and Oscar nominations."

Diana Saenger
NORTH COUNTY TIMES

"Quite entertaining . . . wonderful performances. May be the year's most fearless movie."

Lou Lumenick
NEW YORK POST

"The cinematography is wonderful. Griffith's performance is dandy and endearing."

Liz Braun
TORONTO SUN

"Complex and powerful . . . great eccentric fun. One of Melanie Griffith's best roles."

Louis B. Hobson
OTTAWA CITIZEN

"Under the astute direction of Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith proves radiant as a raven-haired Southern Belle."

Dan Pearson
CHICAGO DAILY SOUTHTOWN

"Crazy in Alabama" is both funny and profound."

Arnold Wayne Jones
  1. WORTH STAR TELEGRAM

"Director Antonio Banderas brings a fresh perspective to his directorial debut."
Paul Nechak
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER


FT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

Who knew? 'Crazy' isn't as crazy
as it seems

By Chris Hewitt
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Published: Oct. 21, 1999

Spaniard Antonio Banderas and dippy
bride Melanie Griffith collaborating on a
searching, heartfelt drama about the
civil-rights movement in the '60s --
gotta be a joke, right? Wrong. The movie
is good.

And the Banderas/Griffith union isn't
even the most unlikely thing about
"Crazy in Alabama,'' which merges the
exaggerated, Flannery O'Connor/Harry
Crews tradition of Southern Gothic
literature with a low-key, realistic take
on racial injustice.

Griffith plays Lucille, a daffy Southern
belle who rings in freedom by bumping off
her cracker spouse and hitting the road
for Hollywood. Lucas Black (the kid from
"Sling Blade'' who can make "did'' into a
three-syllable word) plays her nephew.
He witnesses the murder of a black boy
and stews about what to do.

"Crazy in Alabama'' has suspense built
right into it because we spend so much
of the movie wondering how those two
plot strands are going to come together.
It's not just that they're two separate
stories; they seem to be two completely
different movies. One (the Griffith one) is
wild, macabre comedy; the other is
homespun drama. But Banderas, with a
visual flair more finely developed than
most actor/directors who've preceded
him, weaves it all together in a way that
makes dramatic sense and that reminds
us there is often a big gap between
what happens and what people say
happened.

In the end, Banderas relaxes his grasp on
the material (the story of the boy's
murder deserves to be more than a
backdrop to Griffith's tale, but we never
find out if the murderer is brought to
justice), but so much is right -- or, as
Black would say, "raaaaiiight'' -- with the
movie that it scarcely matters.

The part of Lucille plays to Griffith's
strengths -- naivete and honesty -- and
she gets solid support from David Morse
who, as her brother, makes you
understand the bad options a good man
had in the racially divided South.

Banderas is about as unlikely a choice as
Britney Spears directing an adaptation of
Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying,'' but he pulls
it off. What's most impressive is his
understanding of a period of American
history he didn't experience -- he seems
to have tapped into the same
perceptive-outsider-looking-in vein that
served Ang Lee well in "Sense and
Sensibility'' and "The Ice Storm.'' As a
result, he's the one who gets the last
laugh.




"'Crazy in Alabama,' a quintessentially American movie that captures the elusive essence of life in that loss-of-innocence time -- the 1960?s.
'Crazy in Alabama' is also funny, eccentric and touchingly just, combining a unique interpretation of the time with an offbeat sense of humor.
Banderas revitalizes the tired Southern gothic."

Paula Nechak
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

"Wow! 'Crazy in Alabama' was so much more than I expected. Lucas Black is a total asset to the film. Black captures the depth of his character and displays an accurate interpretation of an insightful child. Melanie Griffith was great. This role was perfect for her."

Gissela Santacruz
AUSTIN 360

". . . wonderful debut film of actor-turned-director Antonio Banderas."

Barry Paris
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

"'Crazy in Alabama'is fun."

Frank Gabrenya
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Movie Review: "Crazy in Alabama"

Melanie Griffith is on the lam in 'Crazy in Alabama,' part racial drama, part offbeat comedy

Friday, October 22, 1999

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Lucille is a would-be TV star on the lam, heading for Hollywood in a stolen convertible. Her problem is not just that she killed and decapitated her abusive
husband but that she can't quite bring herself to part with his head, a rather incriminating piece of evidence that she carries around with her in a hatbox and converses with regularly.

Lucille is crazy. But so are a lot of other people
in Alabama -- and in "Crazy in Alabama" -- where her crime is not the only nor worst one of 1965.

Melanie Griffith plays her deftly in this odd,
wonderful debut film of actor-turned-director
Antonio Banderas. But the picture is sweetly
stolen by 17-year-old Lucas Black ("Sling
Blade") as her nephew Peejoe, who with his
brother goes to live with Lucille's brother Dove
(David Morse) in the family funeral home.

One day at the municipal swimming pool, the
brothers are lying on their blankets, casually
killing ants, when two black boys enter and are
quickly evicted from the white-only pool. When
they return in force for a sitdown protest, the
redneck sheriff (Meat Loaf Aday) informs them,
"You're trespassing on public property." He breaks up the demonstration violently, and the boy who led it (Louis Miller) is killed trying to run away.

Miller becomes a civil-rights martyr. Peejoe, the only real witness, becomes the sheriff's target for silencing. "It's not fair," his kindly uncle sympathizes, "but it's just the way things are." Peejoe -- possessed of a deep soul, a thick Alabama accent and soon a heroic eyepatch -- can't accept that.

Lucille, meanwhile, hits the jackpot in Las Vegas, gets discovered by talent scout Robert Wagner in Los Angeles, and miraculously fulfills her dream of appearing on "Bewitched" -- never letting that awkward hatbox out of her sight along the way. The film's single funniest moment comes when her jealous rival (Elizabeth Perkins) finally gets a chance to peek inside it: Perkins' delayed reaction is to die laughing for.

It, like the rest of the picture, is splendidly staged by Banderas, who demonstrates a double gift -- flair and subtlety -- in the handling of major as well as minor performers alike. Lucas Black is an absolutely superb young actor. The deliciously rich supporting cast includes Fannie Flagg as a waitress in a marvelous scene with Griffith and -- best of all -- the great, bald ROD STEIGER as the judge at Lucille's inevitable trial.

Steiger alone is worth the price of admission in his small but hilarious part. What a huge pleasure it is to see this terrific performer in action again -- any time,
any role! People forget that he's just as brilliant a comedian as tragedian, especially here with the slight hint that he might have been doing something other than just briefing Lucille during their "recess" in his chambers.

Which brings us to the excellence of Mark Childress' script, based on his own novel. Full of whimsical exploits and heroics, believable and unbelievable in
roughly equal measure, it is a kind of perverse "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- intertwining a zany over-the-top adventure yarn with a moving racial drama in its very specific time and place.

Switching back and forth between the two, "Crazy in Alabama" seeks laughs from us one minute and tears the next. Its nicely stylized fashion reminds me a bit of "The Graduate" and other Mike Nichols films that aim for realism and parody both. That can only be done by separating while maintaining the integrity of two overlapping sets of characters.

That is a very tough thing to do, but I think Antonio Banderas has done it.


'Crazy in Alabama' is funny, eccentric,
just

Friday, October 22, 1999

By PAULA NECHAK
SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

It's said an outsider can sometimes see things that those of us on the inside miss because we haven't the distance or objectivity.

Antonio Banderas can hardly be called a stranger in Hollywood these days -- he's embraced American culture, married actress Melanie Griffith and starred in a slew of box office hits such as "The Mask of Zorro" and "Desperado." It seems like a long time ago that we thought of him as that sizzling señor in Pedro Almodovar's "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down," for which the actor won the equivalent of the Oscar in his native Spain.

But he brings a fresh perspective to his directorial debut, "Crazy in Alabama," a quintessentially "American" movie that captures the elusive essence of life in that loss-of-innocence time -- the 1960s. Adapted from Mark Childress' 1994 novel about a boy's coming of age in the turbulent, volatile civil rights-era South, the film is rife with the sudden, harsh truths about the real world that emerges with adolescence.

Yet "Crazy in Alabama" is also funny, eccentric and
touchingly just, combining a unique interpretation of the time with an offbeat sense of humor. And Banderas has created a visual style that would make Almodovar proud.



SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
MOVIE REVIEW

Crazy in Alabama. Directed by Antonio Banderas. Written by Mark Childress. Cast: Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black, Cathy Moriarty. Columbia Pictures. Bella Bottega, Cinema 17, City Centre, Factoria, Galleria 11, Grand Cinemas, Metro, Mountlake 9, Parkway Plaza, Renton Village, SeaTac North, Woodinville 12. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence.

Grade: B



The film is surprisingly potent, refusing to shy away from the horrors of racial strife and segregated life in the dim little backwoods town of Industry, Ala., where
12-year-old Peejoe (Lucas Black) and his brother are shifted from relative to relative after their parents die.
The boys wind up with their Uncle Dove (David Morse), the town undertaker, who has just learned that his sister, Lucille (Melanie Griffith), has finally killed her abusive husband and taken off for Hollywood with his decapitated head.

The racist Sheriff Doggett (Meat Loaf Aday) is determined to bring her back while he secretly eludes justice for his treatment of the town's black citizens. Doggett isn't above murder to keep Industry from "turning into Selma."

These two stories entwine deftly, cutting back and forth between very different fights for freedom. "Aunt Lucille's life was one long dream at the movies with her
in all the lead parts," says Peejoe and, indeed, "Crazy in Alabama" combines the outsider's idea of the American dream of sudden fame and fortune with the ability to view internal strife from that same fresh point of view.

Banderas revitalizes the tired Southern gothic genre that has turned into hothouse melodrama in Hollywood's interpretations of the works of writers Flannery O'Connor, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers.



Detroit Free Press
October 22, 1999, Friday

SECTION: Weekend; Pg. Pg. D3


LENGTH: 352 words

HEADLINE: Banderas finds the perfect ' Crazy' wife close to home

BYLINE: Tom Long / The Detroit News

BODY:
Despite a few too many corny moments, Crazy in Alabama, the directorialdebut of Antonio Banderas, manages to be both sweeping and small, quirky and sincere, and offers Melanie Griffith her best role in years. Who knew Zorro
had it in him?

Actually, much of the credit has to go to writer Mark Childress,adapting his own novel here, for a story that tracks a murderess toting her deadhusband's head off to Hollywood in a hatbox while racial tensions rip apart
her home town in Alabama. It's none too subtly about searching for freedom, butthere's enough humor and whimsy to balance out the heavy stuff.

Griffith plays Lucille, mother of seven, murderer of her constant impregnator, and would-be starlet circa 1965. As the film opens, she leaves her brood with Grandma and hits the road, looking like a firecracker and talking to the head of her dead husband, which she always keeps within arm's reach.

Meanwhile, the sudden invasion of seven at Grandma's has forced her nephew Peejoe (Lucas Black from Slingblade) to leave that same rural fortress and
take up residence in town with his uncle Dove (the always reliable and overlooked David Morse). It is a time of civil unrest, and while Peejoe worries about
his aunt's flight from the law, he finds himself drawn to the black man's struggle for freedom.

The result is that Crazy is half batty road comedy, half earnest civil rights record, but Banderas manages for the most part to keep both moving. A few too many visual indulgences (a black kid spread crucifixlike while floating on water, a flapping American flag that fills the screen after Martin LutherKing Jr. appears) and a somewhat sappy courtroom finale weigh the picture down a bit, but they don't do it in.

Griffith, all puffy lips filling the screen, seems at first to be parodying her own va-va-voom past, but then lets Lucille build into a real -- and troubled -- woman. Husband, Banderas, couldn't have given her a nicer present than this film.

A Columbia release. Opens today at area theaters.

Movie Review



Copyright 1999 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
The Plain Dealer

October 22, 1999 Friday, FINAL / ALL

SECTION: FRIDAY; Pg. 11

LENGTH: 477 words

HEADLINE: BANDERAS IS ' CRAZY' LIKE A FOX WITH 'ALABAMA'

BYLINE: By CLINT O'CONNOR; PLAIN DEALER REPORTER

BODY:
Ladies, this question is for you: Do you hate your husband? Are you really sick of the oppressive goat? How much? Do you hate him enough to kill him, hate him enough to kill him and cut off his head and take it on a road trip?

I know some women who would like to do this to their ex-husbands (minus the road trip). But let's not go off all nutty and murderous, because Melanie Griffith does it for you, playing out many an anguished wife's fantasy as Lucille in " Crazy In Alabama."

And it should be noted that this is not some slasher movie, but a comedy.

Well, not a comedy, but a dark comedy. Well, not that either, it's more of a drama, a tragedy. With comedy. It's not really sure what it is and it doesn't matter. " Crazy In Alabama," from first-time director Antonio Banderas, is a charming grab-bag of clashing genres with wonderful performances by David Morse, as Lucille's brother Dove, and Lucas Black, as her nephew Peejoe.

It should also be noted that there are nifty little appearances by Rod Steiger, as a Southern judge who drifts into French, Cathy Moriarty as an angry wife, Robert Wagner as a Hollywood agent, Elizabeth Perkins as a vicious starlet and Meat Loaf Aday (yes, that Meat Loaf) as a bigoted Southern sheriff.

But back to that head. It's 1965 in Industry, Ala., and Lucille has just killed and decapitated her cheating, drunken, wife-beating husband, Chester (you don't actually see this or anything, so you can load up on Junior Mints). She dumps her seven kids - seven! - with her mama and heads off to pursue her dreams of becoming a star in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, this being 1965 in Alabama, there's all kinds of racial unrest and nasty things being done to black people by evil white people, except for
Lucille's nephew Peejoe, who tries to stop the evil and gets in all kinds of trouble.

The movie jumps back and forth between Lucille's renegade road trip (Thelma without Louise), and the travails back in Industry where Dove and Peejoe are
trying to fight for truth and justice. Morse and the young Black are such good actors that they enrich the film with their performances.

Lucille eludes the cops long enough to get a guest shot on "Bewitched," as a flirty diversion for Darin Stevens. But she could never quite figure out where to bury, or submerge Chester, so she carries him around town in a hatbox. What's worse, Chester, that is, his head, er, his spirit, keeps speaking to her, annoyingly from the hatbox. It brings new meaning to the phrase Talking
Head.

Ultimately, she is caught and must go on trial.

" Crazy In Alabama" was written by Mark Childress from his novel. The juxtaposing of raw civil rights emotions (even a brief glimpse of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr), with the glamour and glitter of a whacko wannabe
star in Hollywood, could be seen as too much of a stretch, or just like life.

GRAPHIC: BOX: Crazy In Alabama; Opens today.; Directed by Antonio Banderas;
written by Mark Childress; produced by Meir Teper and Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Rated PG-13 for adult themes and some violence. Running time: 104
minutes.; Lucille - Melanie Griffith; Dove - David Morse; Peejoe - Lucas Black; Earlene - Cathy Moriarty; Sheriff Doggett - Meat Loaf Aday; Judge Mead - Rod
Steiger

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

LOAD-DATE: October 22, 1999


“An Almodovar like blend of laughs, drama and uplift, filled with the kinds of pop-art colors and pop-out performances that Almodovar loves.”

John Hartl
SEATTLE TIMES

“A funny, touching, sometimes wacky film that turns out to be one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.”

Cary Berglund
KCAL-TV

“Antonio Banderas has crafted a poignant tale. Griffith is perfect. ‘Crazy in Alabama’ is an example of the quality that can be achieved in a film where proper respect is paid to the writer’s role.”

Michael Kleinschrodt
NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE

“Antonio Banderas does a terrific job at his first directing job. A poignant film . . . highly entertaining madness.”

Charles Feruzza
SUN PUBLICATIONS


I suppose we've had enough of the 60's Civil Rights Movement. We've seen it over and over. Hasn't it been worn threadbare? Hasn't it all been said and done and shown two fold, if not more? Perhaps. Yet "Crazy in Alabama," a film which focuses on the racial aspects and the women's rights aspects of 60's Southern life still enthralled me. It moved me. It made me weep with it's beauty, simplicity and emotion. Perhaps I'm just an old softie. But perhaps I'm lucky to be such. Because I saw the overwhelming beauty here. The promise of tomorrow. Seen from the realm of yesterday and foreshadowing the hopefulness of tomorrow.

For some reason it's surprising this film is directed by Antonio Banderas. Maybe a white, middle aged, upper class, American director couldn't have looked at the subject matter with such unusual eyes. Banderas' film begins with some kitsch graphics as backdrop for a credit sequence and underscores it's with Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walking." Not only does this pop missive become a feminist anthem in Banderas' hands, it acts as impetus for all people demanding their rights. Silly in a way. But so damn effective. Again, this is Banderas' "outsider" finding light in an old hat. He gives all that happens here a sort-of fresh kick. It's deliriously wonderful.

But while Banderas can be kinda goofy and colorful in his film here (Almodovar's presence being shown), he can also be moving and poignant. A powerful moment in the film, where a young black child floats quietly in a white-only swimming pool while a race riot ensues in the background is so emotional, so perfect. It makes the beauty and the dignity of the Civil Rights movement come to life. And, while it fits perfectly in the story being delivered here, it has a life all it's own. It's beautiful, passionate and potent. And it seems brand new.

Banderas makes all his stars seem perfectly cast. Sure, he's got his wife in the supposed lead. And while I usually cannot stand Melanie Griffith, she is awesome here. Perhaps it's because the role of a dingy actress suits her well. Regardless. She moves us here. David Morse, Meat Loaf, Kathy Moriarty, Rod Steiger, Fannie Flagg, Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Perkins... they are all perfect and perfectly cast. But it is the young Lucas Black, who helped mold "Sling Blade" into the masterpiece it became, who is the true star here. I suppose it's only fair to detractors to say he is typecast. Hell, everyone here is typecast. But Black gives the film the emotion and wonder and beauty and ideal that it deserves. He makes the film work in every single damn frame, even the ones he is not in. Given his physical limitations, his young hick looks and his Southern drawl, he is still the finest young actor working in films today. Even his narration here works because we can't help but love to hear the sound of his voice. This is the kind of kid that says "Dadgumit" and it doesn't sound phony. This is just the kind of phrase we would expect to Black use in real life. He's fucking awesome. Anyone who doesn't see it is a blind fool. He infuses every line of dialogue, every phrase, every word, with sincerity and reality and charm and love and hope and pain and wonder. Jesus, I hope he never loses that.

Juxtaposing the rights of women to become whole, to leave the oppression of demeaning and abusive husbands with the rights of Blacks to become whole citizens and participants in the American fabric may be a pretty easy choice, but this film makes it work. Banderas shows more understanding for American history and the dawning of the Civil Rights Movements than most native born Americans do. But he throws in the kinks of a outlander looking in. The colors of the early 60's, the kitsch, the cars, the landscape... All that made the mid-60's exciting. "Crazy in Alabama" brings us that world on the brink. Right before it breaks loose. Right before the crux... And we are breathless teetering on the edge with it, filled with the hope and joy and wonder of what happens next. It's all right there in Lucas Black's face. That's the hope and the promise of a world evolving, becoming whole. That's the hope in a young boys' face. "Crazy in Alabama" captures that. Has it been done before. Perhaps. But this film makes it all seem new. The cliches, the stereotypes, the history, the moment. Banderas and his marvellous cast breathe life into them. And, like America in the 60's, we are renewed. This is the promise of mainstream film fulfilled.

Note: Also with Paul Mazursky and David Speck.

Script by Mark Childress based on his novel. Score by Mark Snow.

-- Lodger, FILETHIRTEEN.COM





Photos:  (c) Mark Childress
Houma courthouse square


Robert Wagner and Antonio


Meat Loaf and friend


Lucas Black and Antonio


Melanie at the Chateau Marmont

My glamorous friends


Tippi Hedren and friends


Suzie Q


Me on Stage 9, Culver City

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