I’ve been seeing this trailer every damn where for months. This movie really wants you to know that it exists and like a child that craves attention, it’s one and only trailer is attached to everything. It’s… annoying. But as it is, it doesn’t look bad per se. It does, however, look like any other racially charged romance. I feel like you could watch this trailer and know exactly where the story’s going to go. Well, fair argument, it’s based on a true story (what isn’t these days) and you could spoil the entire movie by reading about it on Wikipedia. I do, however, think it’s a bad sign if you can figure the movie out even if you didn’t know it was based on true events. I know interracial marriages were a shit-storm of controversy some decades ago and this is probably one of the more famous cases, but… I don’t know.
Let’s check out the cast, shall we? Co-starring are Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Edgerton is a rising name and face in film, especially thanks to 2015. He was great in BLACK MASS and his movie THE GIFT, which he wrote, directed, and starred in was probably one of the better films to come out last year. He’s always had a fine career, and it seems like it’s only getting better. I might dare to say that this film looks like it’s perfect for him to show more of his acting chops. I can’t say that I am too familiar with Negga. I don’t watch the TV show PREACHER, and I stopped watching Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. some time ago. I also don’t remember her role in WARCRAFT (2016), but she looks like she’s going to be alright in this. In supporting roles, we have the amazing Michael Shannon (ELVIS & NIXON , MAN OF STEEL , and TV show BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Marton Csokas (THE EQUALIZER , the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and XXX ), and Nick Kroll (SAUSAGE PARTY , I LOVE YOU, MAN , and TV show PARKS AND RECREATION).
Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Jeff Nichols, known for writing and directing most of his work, which includes MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016), MUD (2012), and TAKE SHELTER (2011). Composing the music is David Wingo, known for working with Nichols on MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, MUD, but also did the music for SNOW ANGELS (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Stone, known for working with Nichols on his movies too, as well as COMPLIANCE (2012).
Overall, I’m pretty indifferent to the story, but I do really like Edgerton, so I’m going to support this film. Hopefully, it’s great, but those trailers really soured my interest. This is my honest opinion of LOVING.
Based on a true story, set in the last 1950’s. Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) marries Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga). They have a very good relationship, but that same relationship unfortunately gets them arrested in their home state of Virginia. This is because Richard is a white man and Mildred is a black woman, and it’s illegal to have interracial marriages in the state. Their lawyer gets them off easy by having them plead guilty to their marriage in court under the condition that they leave the state and not return for twenty-five years, taking the two away from their respective families. But as time goes on, an amateur lawyer named Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) wants to take their case back to court in the hopes of giving their lives back and change the course of future white and black relationships forever.
I think I’m still processing a lot of the movie, but let’s get down to it.
Edgerton and Negga are both pretty good in this movie. I say “pretty good” mostly because they weren’t given a whole lot to work with. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with their performances. They’re perfect for what they are. But both characters are pretty quiet throughout out the story. I do get the sense that Richard is a big man, but a gentle heart, and wants to take care of her, but that’s about it. I remember even less about Mildred. She’s his wife and she loves him. They love each other.
I think that’s the problem with the movie. There’s no meat to their relationship, but rather the effect it has on everyone around them. They’re in a grocery store being affectionate, a black woman looks upon them with disapproval. Richard’s mother disagrees with their marriage, and of course their initial arrest. There’s not enough of how their relationship affects them. They don’t really talk to each other about how they feel. It’s all just how everyone else feels and that doesn’t feel right.
Is the movie bad for this? Probably not. There is that scene where Richard is telling Mildred, “I can take care of you.” Edgerton’s performance is drenched in vulnerability and conviction. He even gives Richard this dry sense of humor where everything he disapproves of results in him giving this half-assed grunt, which tickles me. Even the scene with Grey Villet (Michael Shannon) watching Richard and Mildred watching TV and he lays on her lap, that’s a genuinely heartwarming moment. But these moments don’t make up the majority of the movie. Because of this, there isn’t enough focus on Richard and Mildred as people, which probably doesn’t do them justice. It doesn’t quite hurt their memory, I don’t think, but it’s just not enough to carry a film about them. Historical relevance is nice and all, but I want to feel for these two. Not a live reenactment of a Wikipedia page.
It’s also entirely possible that this movie got buried in amidst some pretty big movies this week. A superhero movie with trippy visuals, a war film about pacifism, and an animated kids film, it’s easy to overlook this movie. I’m certainly still riding high on the previous viewings, so it’s difficult to detach myself from how big the other films were and bring myself down to a more mellow mind-set and fully engross myself in this story. But I suppose one could argue, if the movie was superb, I would have naturally grounded myself, instead of trying to force it.
I can’t and won’t say that this is a bad movie, but it’s unfortunately pretty forgettable. Maybe worth a single viewing, but a waste of a potentially good story and certainly a waste of solid talent.
My honest rating for LOVING: 3/5
And that’s all she wrote, kids. But fear not! The next coming weeks are going to get interesting and exciting.