The Life of David Gale Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/21/2003
When a movie seems like a huge political propaganda spiel, I usually like to set that aside and concentrate on the story itself and whether or not it entertained me. I did that last year for John Q, and it helped me enjoy that film quite a lot. It was a little harder to do so while watching The Life of David Gale.
David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is a Texas college professor who has tried hard to live by his values. He is a committed father, popular professor on campus, and a respected death penalty opponent for a group called Deathwatch. Unfortunately, due to a set of regrettable circumstances, he ironically finds himself on Death Row for the rape and murder of fellow Deathwatch activist Constance Hallaway (Laura Linney.) With only three days before his scheduled execution, Gale agrees to give newspaper reporter Elizabeth ?Bitsey? Bloom (Kate Winslet) his first, and last, interview, which is being facilitated by the prison?s public relations man, Duke Grover (Jim Beaver.) He begins his story by recalling a brief sexual encounter he had with a former student named Berlin (Rhona Mitra), which leads to the loss of his job and the souring of his reputation after she accuses him of rape (to pay him back for failing her in a class.) The accusation also leads Gale to lose his position at Deathwatch and the loss of custody of his son from his ex-wife Sharon (Elizabeth Gast.) It also didn?t help matters that he was an alcoholic, something that contributed to his being framed for the murder. Bitsey goes into this interview convinced that Gale is a cold-blooded murderer, but as she hears the story, she realizes that he might be innocent, and that Gale needs her help to clear his name. While not listening to Gale?s story, she is investigating elements of it with Zack (Gabriel Mann), the intern assigned by the newspaper to escort her. They start out by checking out Constance?s old house, which is now owned by a goth-punk woman (Melissa McCarthy) and her boyfriend, who are using it to run a ?David Gale Serial Killer? museum. They are also curious about Gale?s lawyer, Braxton Belyeu (Leon Rippy), whom Gale has kept throughout the entire legal process despite his failure to keep Gale off Death Row, and an ominous figure in a cowboy hat named Dusty (Matt Craven), who might be trying to stop her investigation. Bitsey and Zack must find out the truth in time, because Gale?s life depends on it.
I need to start by stating that I do support the death penalty. I don?t want to get into a big political rant, but I do want to assure you that I didn?t let my views completely slant my review. I tried to focus on the story, which was entertaining. Spacey is one of those actors that can deliver a powerful performance with very subtle acting. I?m surprised to see Winslet in this movie, but she does a great job. Linney was effective as a sympathetic character (except at the end where they reveal the ?big twist,? which just comes off as a little pathetic.)
There were a few things that kind of irked me about the movie. Like I said, I did put aside my political views to review this movie, but they hammered their views to the audience so often that it became distracting. Also, did they really need to make Craven?s character so horror movie-like? The movie is not a horror movie, or even a thriller, so why the creepiness angle? Finally, for fans of the WB show ?The Gilmore Girls,? here is a warning: if you don?t want to ruin your image of Sookie St. James, don?t see this movie. Her weird goth girl character in this movie is the polar opposite of the cutey-pie Sookie.
Director Alan Parker seems to be on an agenda with The Life of David Gale, but if you put that aside, you will enjoy a good story. I love a good ?race-against-the clock? movie, and this one delivered.
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