Sunday, September 14, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird; drama, USA, 1962; D: Robert Mulligan, S: Mary Badham, Gregory Peck, Phillip Alford, John Megna, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall

Alabama, 1930's. The tomboy 6-year old girl Scout lives with her brother Jem and widowed father Atticus Finch in a small house. The kids and their friend Dill play around and are afraid of a local lonely man, Boo Radley, who is rumored to be insane and a released murderer. One day, Atticus is appointed to defend an African American man, Tom, who is suspected of raping a White woman, Maudie. Even though Atticus proves Tom is innocent since his muscles in his left hand were paralyzed since childhood and despite his testimony that Maudie actually flirted with him, Tom is sentenced to death. Maudie's angry father attacks Scout and Jem, but they are saved by Boo.

Winner of 3 Oscars (best actor Gregory Peck, screenplay, are direction) and 3 Golden Globes (best actor G. Peck, score, international understanding), Robert Mulligan's adaptation of Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a slightly overrated and overhyped, but still very good drama about racism and childhood. The main plot involving Atticus Finsh's defense of an African American man accused of rape on trial is excellent, but it is presented as a subplot and slightly drowned by the "framing" plot revolving around Finch's kids Scout and Jem who can get annoying after a while, yet one can argue that they actually show the trial from children's eyes and mirror the consequences of the trial by racist insults aimed at them in elementary school and neighborhood. Even though Mulligan's direction and the structure are uneven since the flip-flopping between a coming-of-age and a trial story is not that harmonius, the 9-year old Mary Badham is truly excellent in her "unrecognized" leading role as the tomboy girl Scout, especially in the touching scene where her innocent words soften up an angry mob that wanted to storm the prison and kill the accused African American prisoner or in the comical moment where she is forced to wear a skirt for the first time in her life for school, which is why she hesitates to enter the kitchen and present herself to everyone.


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