‘Savannah’ Movie Review – Low B for Effort
Storytelling, in its most traditional concept, is a very interesting thing. If you think about it, before books and then movies, it was tough to immortalize a story. Instead, stories were passed on from generation to generation, sometimes becoming folklore. In Annette Haywood-Carter’s (Foxfire) Savannah, this very idea is explored, and while I ultimately don’t think the movie was overwhelmingly great (or even good), I can’t let go of this idea that stories can slip away forever.
Taking place in Savannah, Georgia (who would’ve thunk it?), Savannah is the tumultuous true story of Ward Allen (Jim Caviezel) in the early 1900s. It is primarily told through the voiceover narration of Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofor), one of Allen’s best friends and a former slave.
So, what’s interesting about Allen’s life? Besides being an eccentric duck hunter and moonlight poet/writer, Allen chooses a life of his own that goes against his heritage. Rather than continuing to live as a privileged white man in the South, he chooses to live off the land with his good friend.
Before I continue into what I consider the strongest part of the film, I’d like to backtrack to explain how the film fails in bringing this tension to the surface. While there are parts that are racially-charged, the script takes a “mile wide, inch deep” approach.
In other words, it doesn’t explore this idea to the fullest.
You could make an argument that it was just one aspect that made Allen the person he was, but by making a conscious decision to avoid, or limit rather, the racial aspect, it undermines that whole part of the film. And by not excluding it altogether, Savannah suffers from questionable pacing and unearned emotional drama.
If we’re operating on the “good faith” principle, we’d assume the filmmakers and writers had a passion to commemorate Allen’s life. I can’t speak for their actual intentions, but the story still makes me question this “good faith” because it just doesn’t fully resonate.
That isn’t to say the whole movie is a failure. Besides looking genuinely good – which sprawling period dramas have an inherent advantage with – Savannah does explore what I mentioned in the lead. If nobody is there to capture the story – which nowadays would mean to put in writing or on film – it will eventually be lost forever. That’s a really powerful idea, no matter what the subject entails.
It is tough to show an entire man’s life in one movie. However, “tough” doesn’t mean “impossible,” and Savannah, while maybe not lacking in passion, doesn’t quite capture Ward Allen’s life to its fullest. However, I’m still willing to give an “A” or rather low “B” for at least exploring this idea of folklore.
Savannah opens in limited release this weekend. Check your local listings for the nearest theater.
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