This disappointing 1989 second feature by writer-director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) stars Paul Newman as onetime Louisiana governor Earl Long and Lolita Davidovich as Blaze Starr, a stripper who was Long’s mistress. Shelton still shows some flair for dialogue, and the materialmostly drawn from Starr’s as-told-to autobiographyis certainly ripe and colorful (Long was both an eccentric and a genuine visionary, as we know from A.J. Liebling’s The Earl of Louisiana). But both Newman and Davidovich seem miscast, and despite their honorable efforts neither character registers with the punch that the story warrants. Shelton’s uneven script and fitful direction make much of the pacing sluggish, and while the movie draws some authenticity from its secondary castJerry Hardin, Gailard Sartain, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Garland Buntingand cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s feel for southern locations, the story itself seems to be taking place in a void. The sad irony is, although most of the major events in this movie actually happened, one never quite believes in them as they’re articulated here. (JR)

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