This will probably come as a huge shock to Jonathan ("Philadelphia")Demme and Oprah Winfrey, but "long" does not equal "important." Furthermore, a movie simply cannot do what a book does, and one who brings an "important" piece of literature to the screen should never feel compelled to cover every last page of the novel. That's how one ends up with an excruciatingly long film like "Beloved" that spirals completely out of the director's control.
In the last ninety minutes (as opposed to the first ninety minutes), don't be surprised if audience members are carried out of the theater on stretchers, suffering from the whiplash caused by compulsively checking their watches. Demme doesn't help things either, signalling the end of every scene with that crappy, sappy, "somebody is dying slowly from cancer somewhere" tear-jerker music.
The story is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the impact of slavery. Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) is a runaway slave with a house haunted by her dead daughter. It's the legacy of slavery and Sethe can't rid herself of the specter. It carries over to her daughter, Denver (Kimberly Elise), and Paul D. (Danny Glover), the kind man who shows up to build a life with her. But just when things start to look promising, Beloved (Thandie Newton) emerges from nowhere and wreaks havoc on Sethe's mental stability, and Paul D. realizes just what kind of nut house he's checked himself into.
There are lots of things in this film that are just utterly unnecessary, the most prominent being a scene in which Oprah runs off to the side of her house, pulls up her dress, and takes a huge, steaming pee. You know, I gleaned from seeing Oprah that urinating was probably a part of her life -- and even her character's -- but did I really need to see it? There are also some scenes of Oprah cleaning and doing dishes, which was kind a stretch of Oprah's acting abilities given that in real life, ironically, even Oprah's servants have servants.
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