We shouldn’t need so much time warming to a movie, but this one does. Loving has the immediate components for an admirable motion picture, about the interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving married in Virginia in the year 1958 and thereby breaking the Constitution, but for a long while the movie is too placid and stillborn and polite. It wasn’t until Richard goes to jail to bail out his still imprisoned wife Mildred and is rejected by the sheriff that I felt, Hey, This Movie Finally Has a Strong Scene! We get to know Richard and Mildred as humble folk who simply just wanted to stay in love together and got caught up in a case that went to Supreme Court. But the movie starts vague and at arm’s length, such as where did these two come from, where did they meet, and such… I just wondered – Well, why is this movie being told so dispassionately??
The movie eventually warms up. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the couple at odds with senseless laws that slightly predate the change of Civil Rights in this country. They get released with the oath that they leave Virginia for 25 years and never return. In secret they do, but get caught up in controversy that eventually gains national attention. In a peculiar yet intriguing touch, Nick Kroll is the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) pro bono attorney with smarts but no charisma – and not enough courtroom experience – who approaches this case on behalf of the Lovings. It is the scenes of meetings with him that we start to get a better idea on how the Lovings think and feel. There are a few brief but good scenes with Michael Shannon as a Life Magazine photographer who goes in to make this couples’ lives look virtuous and enviable. Love defeats racism, and that was even an argument when it made it to the Supreme Court ruling.
This movie could have been shaped differently, tighter and more engaging, by writer-director Jeff Nichols (“Mud”). In time, the acting is supple and the words of the script take flight. Ultimately, I am glad I had the patience to warm to this movie, and there are enough good scenes. I am glad that this movie exists, however flawed.
Note: The film’s sole Oscar nomination is Negga for Best Actress.
123 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
HISTORICAL DRAMA /BIOPIC /WEEKEND FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Film Cousins: “Jungle Fever” (1991); “Zebrahead” (1992); “A Bronx Tale” (1993); “The Loving Story” (2011).