THE RISING PLACE

PG-13
Reviews

Emily Hodge (Laurel Holloman) falls in love with a flyboy. When he goes off to war in Europe, Emily discovers she's pregnant. In her Sylvan, unnamed town, deep in the Mississippi Delta, and even in her own home, the young woman is scorned. Only her best friend, Wilma Watson (Elise Neal), a black woman, and Will Bacon (Mark Webber), their white male friend, remain loyal. But that's all in the past now, gone with the wind--at least until Emily's niece Virginia (Frances Fisher) discovers her letters. And Tara rises again.

Filmmaker Tom Rice mounted the Hollywood time machine, and stopped where even angels fear to tread--in the rime-frosted woods of the Old South. He called this field of dreams The Rising Place. Stock characters appeared before him, like Mammy, the cook. He renamed her Lessie (S. Epatha Merkerson of "Law and Order") and gave her a daughter who was so much more--a civil rights activist, in fact, Wilma the schoolteacher. A reincarnation of Ashley Wilkes was there, too, in Will Bacon. Rice's Scarlett arrived as Emily, a middle-class white girl, who heroically gives up her child and begins a life of her own. Rice realized he did not need a script! It was all there in the characters, in those admirable women, black and white, formed in the dark thickets of racial prejudice and gender bias.

The wind done gone, but not here in The Rising Place, where black folks still sit on the back porch of the caf. At night, they sing and dance in the smoky blues bars on the other side of the river. Sometimes, though, there is the crack of rifle fire, the specter of the rope, the threat of the massa. Black men die. The women die, too, the educated ones, who think Negroes deserve a seat at the lunch counter. Audacious white folks like Emily Hodge openly mourn their passing. In this place that springs from what Joan Didion called America's "preferred narratives," its soft-focus past, we create the worst kind of mythologizing, the kind that sacrifices real heroism and abject suffering for melodrama.

--Maria Garcia