Crazy in Alabama

Cast :

Melanie Griffith   Lucille
David Morse   Dove
Lucas Black (II)   Peejoe
Cathy Moriarty   Earlene
Meat Loaf   Sheriff John Doggett

Director: Antonio Banderas 

Crazy in Alabama is a reflection into the filmmaking side of Antonio Banderas’ brain.  It appears there is a great deal of conflict going on in his head, because this is a tale of two stories that just do not belong together.  They are linked together via the relation of one character to another and by a similar theme regarding obtaining personal freedom, which is echoed in the final monologue.  What happens in between is at times engaging, but mostly dizzying in the way that it shifts uncomfortably from one story to another, forcibly trying to maintain the link between the two.  Had the focus been maintained on one, or the other the movie may have worked better.  In its current form, the movie fails to get its message across, due to trying to use two stories to convey one message.  The key word here is focus, and Banderas never does.

In one story, we are shown the strife caused by racial division in the mid-60s in Alabama, through the eyes and experiences of a child.  This is the more powerful and effective of the two stories and the one that should have had the majority of the focus.  Previous movies had depicted the effects and visions of racism; hence the idea is not completely original.  Mississippi Burning being one of the best however it is a topic that has several different perspectives.  Hence, there are several versions of the same story that can be told, akin to how several eyewitnesses can tell different versions of the same event.  Banderas effectively conveys the confusion and frustration of those who failed to see the sense of racism, and the voracity of those who did, in defending their beliefs.  The believers are represented by a stereotypical small-town sheriff portrayed wonderfully, and quite detestably by rock singer Meat Loaf.  The continual showdowns, and struggles between these two create some of the movies most effective moments.  Had the movie rested solely on the laurels of this story, it would have been something wonderful. 

Unfortunately, Banderas got greedy with his message, and had to bring his wife into the mix, thusly diluting the films effectiveness with a silly second story.  This story deals with Peejoe’s carefree Aunt Lucille who has done away with her husband, taken his head and ventured to Hollywood to do what he would never let her do.  The ties to the above story, other than relation, center on the sheriff concurrently trying to convict Lucille for her husband’s murder.  These tie-ins seemed forced at best, and definitely unnecessary and inhibitive to the movies message.  The performances of Meat Loaf, David Morse, and Lucas Black give the movie some redeeming moments, but never enough to make the cutaways to other story worth viewing.  The concluding monologue, by Peejoe, talks of freedom, and how one had to die for it, while another had to kill to get it.  Had the other story conveyed the intellectual power of that statement, the message may have hit home with more power.

Ultimately, Crazy in Alabama is a tale of a director with one good idea and one great closing line who ended up over telling his story on the path to delivering his moral.  Had Banderas turned all of the energy and focus onto one story, this could have been a powerful period piece about the effects of racism on a young mind.  Instead, it becomes a confusing tale of how trying to tell too much of a story, can end up diminishing the desired effect. ($$ out of $$$$)

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