Crazy In Alabama

Apart from the settings and the jim crow laws, I didn’t much recognize my home state in this directorial debut of actor Antonio Banderas, adapted by Mark Childress from his own novel and set in 1965. But the movie eventually won my goodwill by fleshing out a couple of my pet notions: that Marilyn Monroe (whom Melanie Griffith’s lead performance repeatedly alludes to) had a kind of prefeminist will to power before pop culture could ever conceive of such a thing, and that some parallels between the civil rights movement and the feminist struggle are well worth considering. Griffith plays an abused housewife and overworked mother who kills her husband with rat poison shortly before the movie starts and flees to Hollywood to become an actress, while her nephew (Lucas Black) witnesses the murder of a young civil rights activist. This comedy-drama takes a while to arrive at what it has to say, but some of the performances kept me occupied in the meantime. With David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, Meat Loaf, Robert Wagner, Paul Mazursky, and a fancy turn toward the end by Rod Steiger. (JR)

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