Levity
***.8 GM
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter, Kirsten Dunst

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SUNDANCE REVIEW (which means I'm doing a lot of reviews in a hurry, so they might be shorter and less fantastical):

As seems to be a theme with a handful of movies here at the festival this year, we've got a story about people who have committed one horrible crime or another searching for some sort of meaning in life after the biggest mistake of their lives, and this is a theme I find pretty damned interesting.

"Levity" is a really good movie starring Billy Bob Thornton as a guy named Manuel Jordan with a need for redemption being released from prison 23 years after foolishly killing a young guy in a convenience store robbery, and struggling to deal with the weight he carries. He gets a little help from a soup-kitchen-parking-lot-preacher named Miles, played by the goddamned great Morgan Freeman. The sister of Jordan's victim is Adele, played by Holly Hunter, who I'm now in love with. Mentioning this to compatriots, though, causes a bit of reeling and an invocation of "Crash" as a film that should invalidate my newfound psychotic one-way romance. I was scared of that movie before... now I'm really scared.

Anyway, it's a quiet film, and there's not a lot of people who can portray carrying a huge burden of guilt like Thornton's deep eyes and reserved demeanor allow him to, although David Morse did a damn good job of it in "The Crossing Guard," too. The fact that he doesn't believe in the possibility of any true redemption or forgiveness, yet feels the need to seek out the sister of the poor kid he shot and just be around to help her in whatever ways he can really brings home the gut-crushing remorse and utter helplessness of his situation, and man, does it hurt. The title of the film refers to what's missing in Jordan's life, and in the brief flashes of time where he can actually bring himself to smile, you can feel the desperate need for it.

Morgan Freeman comes out forcing a bit of an edge into his voice that bothered me when he first started out, but became more necessary to differentiate this character from the type of guy he'll occasionally play with the warm, soothing and sagely voice he usually has. He's the only bit of real comic relief in this film, and he's got some pretty good zingers to fling about, too, as well as some sympathy and a sense that he's in the same boat as Jordan is.

Hunter, who I can't really remember being so captivated by, is also really good as the troubled woman with a checkered past of her own and struggling to raise a son that's determined to enjoy the Thug Life so popular with the kids these days. The tenuous relationship Jordan forms with her feels like both the right and wrong things to do at the same time.

I guess I've got a thing for prison redemption movies starring Morgan Freeman. There are worse things to have things for.

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