Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
Selma | David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., André Holland, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Tessa Thompson, Ledisi Young, Keith Stanfield, Stan Ho
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 10 January 2015
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Selma | David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Lorraine Toussaint, Dylan Baker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., André Holland, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Tessa Thompson, Ledisi Young, Keith Stanfield, Stan Houston, Nigel Thatch, Martin Sheen | Review
The year is 1965. For three months Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) led a campaign that featured a non-violent march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to secure the voting rights of the minority population of the Deep South.
Violence did indeed meet that population at every turn, doled out with relish by “Good ‘ol Boy” White Southerners (law officers, politicians, county clerks) who threw written and verbal obstacles, along with punches, gun shots and tear gas at any assembled crowd who dared protest, march or even show up at the court house to attempt to register to vote.
Dr. King lobbied to get the unfairly restrictive laws changed, taking the issue all the way to the White House, where President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) initially placed it squarely on the back burner of national affairs, after allowing J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) to track the activist using wiretaps and harassment designed to weaken the King family structure.
Ironically, the existence of those FBI logs now aids in the historical accuracy of the film about the movement and the man who won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
Infighting between King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee complicated matters but eventually, joined by clergy and other people of conscious from around the country, the consistent and non-violent efforts of the movement resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Johnson himself.
Getting to that victory takes up most of the film’s running time and recreates its bloody, local government-sanctioned police suppression of the population’s constitutionally guaranteed right to self-determination through the ability to vote.
Director Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) helms a skillful, well-crafted portrayal of a time when bias disguised itself as law, and the ongoing struggle to change the status quo in a film that’s as powerful in its quiet moments as it is in its violent ones.
The 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that claims the lives of four little girls has a fierce, undulating quality brought about by slow motion shots that both prolong the horror while injecting it with the grace of angels in flight. The result is powerfully effective, heartbreaking, graceful, and horrifying, all in a few short moments, thanks to cinematographer Bradford Young and superb editing by Spencer Averick. And that excellence runs throughout Selma as though it was one of the marchers preserving his or her own life from racist law enforcement.
David Oyelowo brings the civil rights leader to the screen with quiet dignity and a face that has a tremendous capacity to appear both wounded and determined. Tom Wilkinson approximates the deeply conflicted LBJ in mannerisms, but wisely abandons trying to sound like the born-and-raised Texan. Tim Roth disappears into the role of Alabama Governor George Wallace incorporating the sound and demeanor of the man so that appearance is secondary; we know what he’s about.
A sterling supporting cast includes Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, a force to be reckoned with in her own right as she confronts her husband with his infidelities. Cuba Gooding, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, André Holland, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Common, Colman Domingo, Omar J. Dorsey, Tessa Thompson, Ledisi Young, Keith Stanfield, Stan Houston, Nigel Thatch, and Martin Sheen, among many others, comprise the many individuals, whether historic or composite, that had a role in the events of the time.
With multiple stories to tell, DuVernay’s camera visits parlors, bedrooms, kitchens, and jail cells, illuminating the private moments behind the very public ones. The result is a film resplendent in relevance, complexity, injustice, and ultimately, triumph.
They did overcome. And it happened in Selma.