A Lesson Before Dying
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Based on the New York Times No.1 bestselling novel and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Don Cheadle and Cicely Tyson star in 'A Lesson Before Dying." Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle) has become resigned to racial injustice in the south. Returning to his home town with a college degree, he continues to teach in the same one-room school of his youth. Struggling to make a difference in an oppressive time and place, Grant is called upon by two local women, Tante Lou and Miss Emma, to visit the town prison. There, Jefferson, a simple young man, has been convicted of a murder he did not commit and sentenced to die like an animal. Jefferson is full of rage and resentment, and the women are convinced that somehow he must be taught to die not like an animal, but like a man. It falls upon the teacher to enrich a life he cannot save and, in so doing, somehow redeem his own, by teaching one young man "A Lesson Before Dying."]]>
Top Customer Reviews
The key moment is not what happened in the store but rather what is said during the trial, when Jefferson's defense attorney, a white lawyer, seeks to save his client's life by saying that Jefferson is like a hog. That is to say, as a Negro Jefferson is no more intelligent than a hog and not capable of understanding what he is doing, therefore he should not be convicted. The jury, no doubt well acquainted with the practice of barbeque, has no more qualms about having Jefferson executed than they would of slaughtering a hog for a feast. But Jefferson's mother, Miss Emma (Irma P. Hall), and his aunt Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson), are outraged that the boy has been called a hog. So they badger local schoolteacher Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle), the only educated black man in town, to visit Jefferson in jail and convince him that he is a man and not a hog.
Now, this is certainly an interesting idea.Read more ›
The same appeared to happen with the racial issues presented. The open demoralizing of the blacks (by the whites) was soon overshadowed by the more personal issues of spirituality and self-esteem. One of Cheadle's finer performances, in my opinion, with equally impressive supporting performances.
This is a wonderful film, with a "Lesson" or two for us all.
I warn that this movie isn't very action-packed, but it's a great intriguing drama. I recommend it to anyone looking to see an intelligent, well-made movie.
I can't say enough about "A Lesson Before Dying." The injustice committed will anger you, the fate of Jefferson will sadden you, but ultimately knowing these people and sharing in their lives, and seeing dignity and love rise from the ashes of a cruel and uncaring world make the anger and sadness worth it all.
The movie's most compelling quality is its clear-eyed view of racism in America's deep south. The black people we meet all have distinct personalities complete with problems, strengths, fears, disappointments, and ambitions - just like anybody else. They are people first, black people second. Racism, in all of its cruel and unjust stupidity, does not define them; it is simply the water they swim in, the air they breathe. This unbiased neutrality imbues A Lesson Before Dying with real force.
Every life is seen through the lens of racism. Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer) is the purest of victims, Grant (Don Cheadle) is the intellectual wrestling with fight or flight, Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson) is fierce in her belief that self-discipline holds the answer, while the unforgettable Miss Emma (Irma Hall) embodies all we've ever learned about the abiding courage and astounding endurance of black women, still strong enough to love, give, and do what it takes to defend their own.
This is a tough-minded picture that asks a very hard question. Everyone knows Jefferson is innocent, they also know he will be executed. But how can Grant help him die with dignity? Why is that such an important goal - a gift to himself, to Miss Emma, and to the children of the town? This quest touches everyone.
Don Cheadle is always worth watching, he was haunting in Hotel Rwanda. The good news is that his exceptional performance here is one of many that are woven together into a powerful, and very American story. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved it. Some of the details from the book weren't in the film, but it still worked. It was quite OK to eliminate the part near the end of the book in which the electric chair... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mary Ann Zettelmaier
A fantastic rendition of the novel. Very powerful lesson for everyone...a must seePublished 10 months ago by Ashley Francis