Tuesday, November 1, 2016


The best thing about Loving - Jeff Nichols' biopic about "Loving vs the State Of Virginia" (the case that changed the Supreme Court's ruling on interracial marriage) - is that it didn't get all "Mississippi Burning" on the audience. The story is set in 1960's Virginia so there's obviously plenty of racial intolerance, sneers, tension & slurs directed at our protagonists, but Loving is more about the (realistic) relationship/romance between Richard & Mildred Loving and less about burning crosses and ignorant sweaty racist supporting characters. In fact, the bulk of the racism is controlled within one character for the most part (the racist town sheriff).

It's easy to get caught up in the racism & legal red tape concerning the marriage between Richard & Mildred Loving but seldom do we hear about their love for each other. Sure, they're one of the earliest (legal) symbols for interracial unions but they're also actual human beings who went through hell for each other and brought three children in to this world.
I know this sounds corny & cliche but this image (recreated in the film) really does speak volumes...

Loving succeeds in my eyes because of its subtlety. Jeff Nichols takes his time and isn't afraid of showing boring & banal moments like extended scenes of Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) fixing random things around the house, Mildred Loving sitting on the couch looking at her children as they play, and plenty of light physical affection without any dialogue (that's key). Jeff Nichols didn't try to romanticize his protagonists either. Richard Loving, although brave and with conviction, is a typical father of that era - he's grumpy, frowns a lot and seems to work more than anything else. And even though Jeff Nichols is heavily influenced by Terrence Malick, he doesn't make Mildred, "the mother", out to be this unrealistic/paper thin angel like Malick does with a lot of his mother characters.

I have to admit that before I saw this film I always wondered if Richard & Mildred were happy together. Like...did they like each other's company? I guess they had to in order to go through what hey did in order to be together (Richard commuted from DC to Richmond Virginia every day in order to work because he and his family weren't allowed to live south of DC at the time). This film shows all of that for the most part.
Sure Loving has its share of sappy moments and the score does dictate how you're supposed to feel from time to time (something I hate) but do you really expect a movie like this to not have stuff like that? What's most important is that Loving isn't drowned in snappiness & melodrama.

Loving is a special movie for me not only because I'm in an interracial relationship with the women of my dreams (no seriously when I saw my fiancée for the first time I did a double take), but Jeff Nichols is a director that I've wanted to like so badly for so long but I just couldn't. I recognize his talent and I honestly can't even argue that he is one of the best American filmmakers working today (he's not on my personal list, but still...). But for me, on a personal level, his films have flaws, holes or other elements that force me to nitpick (besides Shotgun Stories I haven't been able to get in to his other movies like other people). Jeff Nichols is post-Malick in that he's obviously influenced by the films of Terrence Malick & borrows a few things in terms of style, but Nichols is still his own filmmaker and tells the kinds of stories that Terrence Malick wouldn't necessarily tell. Loving is the first movie of his where I've had little to no criticisms. Sure I would have liked for the movie to be even longer so we could get more in to the legality behind the ACLU's involvement in the case (and I already mentioned my annoyance with the heavily dictating score) but that's my own personal preference. No one besides me really wants to sit through scenes of boring court cases (Nick Kroll does a great job as Richard & Mildred's lawyer and leaves behind any & all remnants of the comedic persona he's known for). So any criticism I have about this movie can be easily shot down.

This is a (true) story concerning race that needed to be told on a major platform (for those that don't remember, there was a movie in the mid-90's with Timothy Hutton & Lela Rochon that Mildred Loving herself wanted nothing to do with).
And while Jeff Nichols & Michael Shannon (who does make a brief appearance) will probably always be synonymous with one another, I like the idea of he & Joel Edgerton becoming regular collaborators (Edgerton stood out the most to me in Nichols' Midnight Special).

It's easy to call Loving "Oscar bait" based off the trailer (and it will more than likely get some kind of major recognition/nomination from the Academy or the Golden Globes) but I assure you Loving has depth and is more than a movie made to win awards.


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