Combustible Celluloid
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With: Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Beah Richards, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Albert Hall, Irma P. Hall, Wes Bentley
Written by: Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravenese, Adam Brooks, based on a novel by Toni Morrison
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
MPAA Rating: R for violent images, sexuality and nudity
Running Time: 172
Date: 10/08/1998

Beloved (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Toni Awards

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jonathan Demme's Beloved was overrated before it opened and underrated after it opened. Based on Toni Morrison's modern classic novel, the movie was the brainchild of Oprah Winfrey, who used her considerable clout to get the movie made, but then used her television show to hype it into oblivion. Now that the movie flopped and was completely overlooked by the Oscars, it safely lands back on the "underrated" list, where we can look at it undiluted. And it is indeed an accomplished film.

Winfrey stars as a free slave in Ohio in 1873. Danny Glover co-stars as her old friend who comes to visit. Beloved (Thandie Newton) is the name of Winfrey's daughter thought to be dead, but who returns one day, unable to speak except for grunts and groans. Demme masterfully exhibits both the harsh realities of the time with the unexplainable mystical world that settles in and around them like a fog, even if he has trouble making the two elements mesh. Still, Beloved has unforgettable moments and indelible images, as when Beloved first emerges from the woods, covered in bugs, as if suddenly uprooted. Jason Robards appears in a small scene, and Beah Richards is a standout as Baby Suggs.

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