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THE GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI

1996, Dir. Rob Reiner
130 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, James Woods, Virgina Madsen.

Review by Chad J. Shonk

The truth is boring.

A couple of months ago, I remember some customer telling me that they liked FARGO because it was based on a true story. And I was like, yeah, that's kind of cool that that's a true story. When people ask me about DONNIE BRASCO, People say "another gangster movie?" and I'll be like "Yeah, but this one is based on a true story." I thought that it being a true story somehow made it a better movie.

What a load of horseshit.

    

For every GOODFELLAS or FARGO, there are FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND made-for-TV shitfests that are based on every single goddamn true story that ever happened. Life itself is boring as shit. That's why we need movies. But every once in a while something hapens in real life that is worthy of a movie. Quite simply, a movie is a movie, whether its source is reality or or the mind of Yahoo Serious or a best-selling pulp novel.

This all brings me to Rob Reiner's GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI. This movie was virtually ignored at the box office and by critics (except for James Woods' performance, and rightfully so) but it really isn't all that bad. Alec Baldwin was a little stiff and Whoopi Goldberg has been better. The supporting cast was good and Reiner's directing is solid. But I was watching this movie and thinking, "This is boring." Why was it boring? Because I had seen it all before. It was familiar ground. There wasn't anything original about it.

    

What bothered me about these observations is that it was a true story.

GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI tells the story of a civil rights leader named Medgar Evars who was shot in his driveway by an assassin in the early sixties. Thirty years after the crime, the killer is finally brought to justice by the Mississippi DA. Alec Baldwin plays the Great White Hope lawyer who loses his wife and his respectability and gets his life threatened because of his dedication to the case. He gets called a "nigger lover" and cries a lot and shit. At the end, they get the conviction and everybody's happy.

    

Before seeing this movie, I did not know anything about Medgar Evars. I still do not. A daring movie to make would have been a biography of Medgar Evars, but they didn't do that. Instead, they reduced the film in to the generic courtroom drama that we've seen a million times in Grisham adaptations and the like. The white DA gets the case, and dedicates himself to it against the advice of his wife and other people involved. He goes around gathering evidence with the help of a few loyal friends (one of which plays comic relief) and then goes to court and gets death threats and learns something about himself and then makes a heart-stirring closing argument and justice is served and everything is okay in the end. A TIME TO KILL and A FEW GOOD MEN (also by Reiner) are the same exact thing. That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more.

The Great White Hope thing didn't bother me as much as others because of the way it happened and and also because, well, I'm white, and we've been taught to feel that we are the world's only saviors. It was the fact that this TRUE story was presented in such an unoriginal way. But how else could they have presented it?

    

The dream racial courtroom drama would take the cast of A TIME TO KILL and and have them play the parts in GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI because it's a true story. I dunno. Everything's been done I guess. Even stories that have never been done before have been done before. That sucks.

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