Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

on November 21, 1997 by Lisa Osborne
   John Kelso (John Cusack)'s description of Savannah sums up the movie: it's "`Gone With The Wind' on mescaline." Director Clint Eastwood transports viewers seamlessly into the glamorous and elegantly dysfunctional world of Savannah where it's okay to walk invisible pets and have insects on leashes attached to your clothes. It's a town where keeping up appearances is important and nothing, certainly not life or privacy, is sacred.
   Based on John Berendt's best-selling novel, "Midnight" chronicles Kelso's trip to Savannah to cover Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey)'s Christmas party for Town and Country magazine. All the local gentry attend this fashionable annual event held at Mercer House, Williams' 19th-century home, which is beautifully decorated with priceless antiques.
   The tempo of the movie changes dramatically when Williams shoots and kills his lover Billy Hanson ("Gattaca's" Jude Law) later that night. Suspense builds as the closely-knit community must decide how to handle not only the homicide but also the suspect's sexual orientation.
   There are some great character studies in this movie. Jack Thompson ("Excess Baggage")'s performance as Williams' attorney Sonny Seiler is a tour de force; The Lady Chablis (who plays herself) steals every scene; and Law is convincing as the malevolent boyfriend whose untimely demise is pivotal to the plot. Cusack and Spacey also deliver strong performances.
   Voodoo undertones give `Midnight' an air of unpredictability and inspire its somewhat unwieldy title. The movie, although relatively long, seems to run out of time and has an abrupt and rather twee ending. Starring Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Jude Law, Jack Thompson, Paul Hipp, Alison Eastwood, Irma P. Hall and The Lady Chablis. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by John Lee Hancock. Produced by Arnold Stiefel. A Warner release. Drama. Rated R for language and brief violence. Running time: 155 min
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