Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Savannah

This old-fashioned, Southern nostalgia-drenched tale seems far too wan for the big screen.

Aug 21, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383788-Savannah_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Set in the early 20th century in the titular Southern port city, Savannah is a molasses-soaked drama based on a true story that must have been more interesting than the way it’s depicted onscreen. Recounting the real-life adventures of the supposedly legendary Ward Allen, who disdained his upper-class upbringing and plantation heritage to forge a life as a law-defying duck hunter, Annette Haywood-Carter’s slow-paced film features a plethora of colorful characters and incidents that register with little dramatic impact. While it may attract some interest in certain Southern markets, it seems better suited for television exposure thanks to the presence of such familiar faces as Jim Caviezel, Bradley Whitford, Sam Shepard and Hal Holbrook.

The anecdotal tale, recounted in alternately humorous and melodramatic fashion, is told in the form of a story related many years later by Ward’s sidekick, former slave Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofor, seen at first in distractingly bad old-age makeup) to a writer who would eventually pen the book on which the film is based.

Much of the storyline concerns the iconoclastic Ward’s flouting of the laws that then apparently banned, or at least severely limited, fowl hunting, which frequently lands him in court in front of an obviously sympathetic judge (Holbrook).

Another major plot strand concerns his romantic relationship with Lucy (Jaime Alexander), a strong-willed, high-society woman who defies her father’s will to aggressively court Ward instead of marrying the wealthy fop (Jack McBrayer, of “30 Rock”) who he’s picked out for her. Although awkwardly resistant at first, Ward soon succumbs to her overtures, with their marriage later threatened by his hard-drinking ways, his devotion to his hunting, and her emotional breakdown after a miscarriage.

While the beautifully shot film is well-steeped in its Southern milieu and clearly reveals the filmmaker’s affection for its colorful characters, its tonal inconsistency and rarified subject matter will prove off-putting to those not particularly nostalgic about the societal mores of early 20th-century Georgia. The Oxford-educated Ward, who’s fond of frequently quoting Shakespeare, is hardly the compelling figure that the film seems to think he is. Another problem is that Caviezel, whose naturally recessive acting style serves him extremely well in such vehicles as the hit CBS series “Person of Interest,” delivers a gamely outgoing turn that nonetheless always feels forced.

The talented British actor Ejiofor fares even less well, never managing to transcend the limits of his one-dimensional character. Such reliable pros as Holbrook, Shepard and Whitford, sporting florid Southern accents, are mostly wasted in their minor roles.

Like its central character, Savannah seems displaced in time, its resolutely old-fashioned storytelling style feeling woefully out of place in the modern multiplex.
-The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Savannah

This old-fashioned, Southern nostalgia-drenched tale seems far too wan for the big screen.

Aug 21, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383788-Savannah_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Set in the early 20th century in the titular Southern port city, Savannah is a molasses-soaked drama based on a true story that must have been more interesting than the way it’s depicted onscreen. Recounting the real-life adventures of the supposedly legendary Ward Allen, who disdained his upper-class upbringing and plantation heritage to forge a life as a law-defying duck hunter, Annette Haywood-Carter’s slow-paced film features a plethora of colorful characters and incidents that register with little dramatic impact. While it may attract some interest in certain Southern markets, it seems better suited for television exposure thanks to the presence of such familiar faces as Jim Caviezel, Bradley Whitford, Sam Shepard and Hal Holbrook.

The anecdotal tale, recounted in alternately humorous and melodramatic fashion, is told in the form of a story related many years later by Ward’s sidekick, former slave Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofor, seen at first in distractingly bad old-age makeup) to a writer who would eventually pen the book on which the film is based.

Much of the storyline concerns the iconoclastic Ward’s flouting of the laws that then apparently banned, or at least severely limited, fowl hunting, which frequently lands him in court in front of an obviously sympathetic judge (Holbrook).

Another major plot strand concerns his romantic relationship with Lucy (Jaime Alexander), a strong-willed, high-society woman who defies her father’s will to aggressively court Ward instead of marrying the wealthy fop (Jack McBrayer, of “30 Rock”) who he’s picked out for her. Although awkwardly resistant at first, Ward soon succumbs to her overtures, with their marriage later threatened by his hard-drinking ways, his devotion to his hunting, and her emotional breakdown after a miscarriage.

While the beautifully shot film is well-steeped in its Southern milieu and clearly reveals the filmmaker’s affection for its colorful characters, its tonal inconsistency and rarified subject matter will prove off-putting to those not particularly nostalgic about the societal mores of early 20th-century Georgia. The Oxford-educated Ward, who’s fond of frequently quoting Shakespeare, is hardly the compelling figure that the film seems to think he is. Another problem is that Caviezel, whose naturally recessive acting style serves him extremely well in such vehicles as the hit CBS series “Person of Interest,” delivers a gamely outgoing turn that nonetheless always feels forced.

The talented British actor Ejiofor fares even less well, never managing to transcend the limits of his one-dimensional character. Such reliable pros as Holbrook, Shepard and Whitford, sporting florid Southern accents, are mostly wasted in their minor roles.

Like its central character, Savannah seems displaced in time, its resolutely old-fashioned storytelling style feeling woefully out of place in the modern multiplex.
-The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here