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New Meetup: Conviction@ Laemmle's Monica 4 Plex Tuesday November 2nd, 7: 05 PM

From: Philip
Sent on: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 9:58 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Los Angeles Film Enthusiasts!

What: Conviction@ Laemmle's Monica 4 Plex Tuesday November 2nd, 7: 05 PM

When: Tuesday, November 2,[masked]:15 PM

Where: Laemmle Theatres Monica 4-Plex
1332 2nd St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

New Deal Tuesdays mean only $7 for all shows at Laemmle's. If the mid-term election coverage is stressing you out, come see this true story about a sister that dedicates her life to getting her brother freed from prison. I'll be wearing my famous blue dodgers jacket in the lobby at 7:05 PM. Here are a few reviews:

Gutsy, street-smart and makeup-less, true-life heroine Waters is a classic Hilary Swank role, and "Conviction," which takes place over two decades, makes us feel all of her setbacks and tiny triumphs. Convicted of a murder he didn't commit, Betty Anne's despairing brother, Kenny, tried to kill himself. Kenny promised not to do it again only if Betty Anne, a rural Massachusetts mom who hadn't even graduated high school at that point, would become a lawyer and fight on his behalf.

The story of the film is Waters' incredible fortitude in the face of stunning odds ? not just against putting herself through high school, college and law school but also against beating the bureaucracy that put her brother away in the first place. There are so many inspiring elements in Waters' story she makes Norma Rae look like a quitter, but "Conviction" has more complexity than you'd think. The villains have their reasons for what they do, and Betty Anne is so single-minded in her defense of her brother she's often a pill.

Director Tony Goldwyn has a fine eye for details of character and setting. Films that take place over as much time as "Conviction" can feel episodic and choppy, littered with "Eight years later" signposts or montages of calendar pages flipping by, but "Conviction" handles the passage of time gracefully. We're aware of what Waters is up against and how complicated her battle is making her life.
Goldwyn's attention to details helps us focus on the process rather than the outcome of Waters' struggle to free Kenny (played by Sam Rockwell, who makes wise, unconventional acting choices). That helps "Conviction" avoid becoming preachy, as does the unusual bond between Betty Anne and Kenny. Other than "The Savages" and "You Can Count on Me," both of which star only-child Laura Linney, the movies rarely show any interest in adult brothers and sisters, but "Conviction" suggests that, because of a difficult childhood, they were the only people in the world who understood each other.

Reality undeniably has been generous to Swank. Her 1999 performance as slain transgender teen Brandon Teena was so astonishing it swept up most top acting honors, including the Oscar.
But for every searing "Boys Don't Cry" in her career, there's been a burnout like "Amelia."
Based on "Conviction's" trailers alone, it looked like Swank's latest stroll down based-on-a-true-story lane would wind up as one of those artificially sweetened heart-tuggers best suited for basic cable.
Surprise, surprise. "Conviction" is not only a taut and engrossing drama, it's also one of the best acted films you'll see this year. Stylistically and structurally, it doesn't do anything revolutionary in relating its compelling narrative, but it does get the job done quite well. The movie tells an unbelievable story, one that will outrage and -- yes -- inspire you.

Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a working-class mother on a passionate and single-minded mission to overturn her brother's murder conviction in the 1980 slaying of a Massachusetts waitress. Betty Anne's frustrating 18-year ordeal to establish Kenny's (Sam Rockwell) innocence leads her to enroll in law school so she can go over the evidence and try to spot discrepancies. Her dedication exacts a toll on her personal life, but she eventually passes the bar while sharing custody of her two boys and working nights at a bar.
It all sounds as preposterous and contrived as the latest John Grisham page-turner. Screenwriter Pamela Gray ("Walk on the Moon") realizes how incredible the material is and wisely refrains from overcluttering her story. She homes in on Betty Anne's steely resolve, which is consistently tested by groan-inducing hurdles -- including the political aspirations of others. Gray and Swank do go overboard at times in emphasizing Betty Anne's virtuousness, but given what she accomplished, it seems justified.
Other characters are more flawed and more complex. As played by versatile Rockwell ("Choke"), Kenny is one messed-up guy -- a gregarious ham and the life of any party. He chooses female companions foolishly and possesses a fists-of-fury temper that lands him in trouble. Rockwell, who always has been an organic actor unafraid of making himself look bad on-screen, again goes the natural route rather than the theatrical. The result is a layered performance that never hits a false note.
Director Tony Goldwyn (also of "Walk on the Moon") resurrects the '80s perfectly -- especially the hairstyles -- and draws out tremendous performances from his supporting cast.
Juliette Lewis, as Kenny's boozy ex-girlfriend, reminds us that no one can play slurring trash like she can. Minnie Driver infuses the film with Champagne effervescence as Betty Anne's law school chum. And Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") is nervy and ambitious as the cop who nails Kenny.
Each performance makes "Conviction" even more riveting as the drama smoothly rides to an expected yet effective outcome. Although its conventionality prevents "Conviction" from breaking out as a great movie, it remains -- beyond any reasonable doubt -- a darn good film.

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