Well I got my first submission for reviewing one of your favorite films. The good Miss Ash decided to submit not one, but four flicks. And guess what? They're actually good movies. Well most of them are.
Miss Ash chose Trainspotting, Goodfellas, The Joy Luck Club, and The Life of David Gale for me to opine about. Three of these films I absolutely love. Two I even own so I don't even have to bother renting to refresh my memory of the content. Then there's one that I hate.
Which one do I start with? Well I haven't seen The Joy Luck Club in years so I need to put it in my online queue and what more could be said about Goodfellas and Trainspotting? Do I go with the one I hate? Would Miss Ash take it personally as people are very passionate about the films that are close to the heart? Maybe so, but still I'll begin with the film I despise with my ever loving being.
There are many films dealing with the issue of capital punishment. Some are sensitive to both sides of the issue (Dead Man Walking) and others are more or less conflicted (In Cold Blood), but then there's The Life of David Gale which clearly believes it's against it.
While not a critical success (currently at 20% freshness on the Rotten Tomatoes meter) the public seems very warm to this film. Everyone I know who has seen this movie loves it and all give a disapproving glare when I mention that it's one of the most pretentious films ever. Some assume I'm for the death penalty, which is incorrect.
Kevin Spacey plays the title character as a brooding, morally bankrupt philosophy professor who is convicted of the murder of his best friend and fellow anti-capital punishment activist Constance Harraway (Laura Linney). Gale then befriends cynical reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) and sells the story to her claiming that there's a conspiracy to have him die. She follows the story and finds holes in the jury's conviction and attempts to bring the truth to our legal system in order to save David's life.
Of course there are the antagonists. One mysterious man dons a cowboy hat, drives a pickup, and lives in a dilapidated shed while constantly throwing Bloom's research into disarray. The screenwriters felt if you're going to depict a person that's for putting convicts to death you must portray them as simpleton rednecks for some reason. No one who lives a middle to upper class lifestyle could be so morally decadent as to be on the side of lethal injection. No they must be poor and speak in a mono-syllabic manner.
Moving past the ridiculous portrayal of either side of the issue the end really did it for me. I won't give it away as I feel you should watch this film and judge for yourself, but as you'll probably figure out halfway in the movie things may not be what they seem. Actually it's told to you in a line of dialogue so you understand that there will be a twist and since the plot is so thinly structured there leaves only one possibility for that "stunning" conclusion.
After sitting through what was a well acted and shot film, and getting the chance to stare at Kate Winslet, I felt it wasn't that bad given all of it's pretensions about an important issue such as the death penalty, but once the final reveal made itself apparent I felt robbed. It destroyed everything likable about David Gale, who seemed like a well intentioned; however flawed, activist to a cheap fraud bent on manipulating the system and the publics' emotions for the sake of his crusade. I almost became a capital punishment advocate if only I could kill the characters myself. Every single last rat bastard one of them would not die a merciful death. They would face a fate that would make Pol Pot cringe.
As I've seen this film before I considered renting it again to see if my opinion would change about the movie. Then I realised I couldn't sit through this cheap, ugly film that everyone seems to like.
"A snide, juvenile, plot-twisting story about capital punishment that should provoke activists truly concerned about the death penalty to rage, and guilty-pleasure seekers to lament that the movie fails even as decent trash." - Wesley Morris
The Life of David Gale