Movie Review: ‘American Violet’Published by Clay Cane on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 12:00 am.
Summary: Based on a true story during the 2000 Gore-Bush election, Dee Roberts and many people in her community are arrested on random drugs charges. Roberts must prove her innocence while putting the life of her and her family at risk.
Review: American Violet is one of those films that you just know is going to be a good movie from the previews. It’s a story with a purpose, thoughtfulness and stays with you regardless of your race or socioeconomic background. In addition, it’s a haunting story that could happen to anyone if you do not live in a privileged neighborhood. Written and directed by Bill Haney, the movie is delivered with a gritty but sharp independent feel. No big special effects, no $10 million paid actors, no elaborate sets—just a solid script and creators who care about the story.
While a deeply important film, who hasn’t heard of racism and police corruption in Black neighborhoods? There is nothing new about that. But, quite effectively, American Violet manages to present racism in a contemporary way, which resonates well with this generation, proving that you can lose your freedom regardless if there are tangible chains and shackles.
Not enough can be said about the actors in the film. Xzibit, for the first time, proves he is a true actor. Anthony Mackie is always flawless, especially in the small role of a mentally disable convict. Alfre Woodard’s standard is theatrical brilliance so she effortlessly illuminated edge and even humor, which was needed for such a heavy film. Julliard-trained Nicole Beharie sets fire to the screen with her powerful presence and accessible passion. If 2008 was Taraji P. Henson’s year, 2009 might be Nicole Beharie’s year.
While the movie is amazing, some of the direction left the viewer wanting more. Many of the scenes ended too quickly. For example, when Beharie’s character is fired from yet another job, we never saw the firing. Scenes like this would’ve been great to see and give the audience stronger moments. There are times when American Violet needed more impact. Nonetheless, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that an audience is so happy with a film that they want to know more.
American Violet is the first must-see film for African Americans in 2009. While we often complain about not enough dramatic movies about Black life—here it is. It’s not enough for a movie to have a Black cast for it to be good, it must have good writing, engaging stories and impassioned actors. This film has all three and even some humor. The best non-documentary movie I have seen this year.
American Violet opens in select cities today and nationwide on May 1st.