When I tell people about this movie and start out with, it stars Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, and Zac Efron, they look at me like I am crazy. Well, I’m not the one who cast this movie you all. Sheesh guys. Which is probably a good thing, because though its an odd crew, and a really odd story everyone plays their roles superbly, to my astonishment. John Cusack plays Hillary Van Wetter, an imate on death row who corresponds with Nicole Kidman’s character, Charlotte Bless. She’s determined to get him off of death row, convinced he didn’t kill the sheriff (nor the deputy, sorry, I couldn’t help it!) and she enlists the help of Ward Jansen, played by Matthew McConaughey. Along with his writing partner, they set up an office in Ward’s hometown and hire his younger brother, Jack Jensen (Zac Efron), as their driver while they try to track down witnesses and alibis.
The story is told from the perspective of Anita Chester (Macy Gray) who worked as the Jensen’s housekeeper the summer of ’69 when the events of the story took place. She acts as narrator and assures the people interviewing her that the book they are fact checking is just a story, she knows what really happened. Of course this is from her perspective, and the story becomes more an more ambiguous as her narration is less and less reliable and the characters delve into the crazy and the secrets. Though ostensibly a murder mystery, it is really a coming of age story of Jack’s character who watches the adults in his life spiral downward. He falls in love with Charlotte even though she is clearly more than a little off her rocker (which, to be fair, she never keeps from him) and is in love with one of the creepiest characters I have seen in a long while. Anita acts more as his mother and older sister than she does his family’s housekeeper and the two share a strange relationship as Jack clings to his childish ways, walking around the house in his underwear constantly for example, and Anita pushes him to grow up a bit.
And in one paragraph I’ve explained this movie far more coherently than the movie explains itself. The plot and the people are into utter chaos and movement and feelings, expressions of beliefs, revelations of character, that only really gels at the last moment of screen play. I really liked the chaos of the movie, it felt like we had been thrown into a wild summer, a period of time when the crazy happened to these people, we see them at their worse and their best. We see mutual self masturbation from Kidman and Cusack as their characters meet for the first time. Zac Efron has clothing on far less then the amount of time he spends in his underwear or swim trunks. McConaghey’s character has some interesting twists and we see him in some compromising situations that seem the less absurd of all of them. Alligators, swamps, and hillbillies with shotguns are integral to the story and add to the strange and wonder that is this movie.
Anthony Qunn in his review writes:
It’s the sort of film if you saw by accident you’d think, “What the —-?”, and perhaps feel a bit disgusted. But you wouldn’t budge from your seat.
He’s right. I watched this movie with Chris over the phone (even though my Netflix kept going out, which was SOOOO annoying) because we saw who was in it and we were intrigued. Neither of us had a clue what the movie was even about or the truly bizarre places it was going to go. Even though seeing Zac Efron walk around in his whitey tighties was a bit uncomfortable, because in my head he’s forever 16 (though in real life he’s a decade older than that) we couldn’t turn away. Not even when Netflix crashed on me at a truly confusing moment in the movie. I just sat there cursing the television screen and screeching about how unfair life was. Damnit! I wanted to watch the train wreck.