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Spinning into Butter
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A vicious hate crime at an elite New England college thrusts the new dean of students into the investigation. When charged with maintaining order on campus, she is forced to examine her own feelings about race. Based on the critically acclaimed play, Spinning Into Butter is a compelling movie that examines the emotional fallout of prejudice within the cloistered walls of academia.
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"Spinning" kind of reminds you of a Saturday afternoon movie on basic cable television, except: there's Carrie-motha******'-Bradshaw yapping your face. It's kind of hilarious, really. She didn't strike me as a teacher (or educator of any kind) before viewing this, but in fact, it works for her as well. She plays the sympathetic, mousy Dean of Students, riddled with white-guilt in today's conservative society.
Not only does the film strike a nerve with me (I'm a black male), but it speaks the volume. While I sympathize for those who face racial challenges on a daily basis, this film doesn't quite conquer the message of that. The film's approach is more so that racism is of the self, and it is not inflicted (at least on screen) towards others. So no, the film is not about racism towards others in the long run, it is about prejudices, self-awareness and self-hate (for those who missed the inclusive, over-the-top ending).
The acting is so-so, the story could've been worked on way better, but it still hits a nerve, so that has to count for something. I am rating this five stars because not every movie with bad reviews should be overlooked, which is something I almost did. But, not every movie is a bad one. Some just outshine others.
Her reaction to her experience at the Chicago school is skitzo. The bottom line message of the film is: If someone appears to be a nice person but they are a different color than you, then they are probably a racist. Isn't this attitude Racism of the worst Kind????????
In "Spinning Into Butter," a small ivy-covered college in Vermont, known for its liberal views and tolerant policies, is rocked by a racial incident aimed at a recently enrolled black student. Soon the incident has exposed a vein of racism running through the faculty and student body that has long lain hidden beneath a veneer of white liberal guilt and political correctness.
Sarah Jessica Parker plays Sarah Daniels, the newly arrived Dean of Students who has to take the lead in quelling the crisis, but who may have issues of her own regarding race to deal with. Veteran actor Beau Bridges also appears as a fellow dean.
Based on the play by Rebecca Gilman (who co-wrote the screenplay with Doug Atchinson), "Spinning Into Butter," directed by Mark Brokaw, starts off with the best of intentions, pinpointing some of the complexities inherent in an issue we too often sweep under the rug in an effort to avoid dealing with it. And the movie does an effective job highlighting the irony that sometimes it is the very well-intentioned efforts we make to try to alleviate the negative effects of racism - quotas, forced integration, segregation in the name of "cultural pride" etc. - that wind up actually exacerbating the problem in the end. The film also makes the rather provocative case that even in a mostly white, socially liberal enclave like Vermont, racism still exists, though since it is rooted more in the subconscious, it is more likely to manifest itself in covert rather than overt ways there. It's a daring and risky theme and one the filmmakers should be congratulated for at least having the courage to bring out in the open.
However, noble intentions notwithstanding, the heavy-handed approach the movie takes towards the topic ultimately robs it of much of its effectiveness. Too often the characters sound less like real people than like spokespersons for individual causes. Moreover, the staging of events is frequently awkward, the drama needlessly contrived. And the resolution of the conflict, quite frankly, borders on the preposterous. Additionally, the performances, with the exception of Parker`s, lack any mitigating trace of polish and finesse.
There's no denying that there are moments of quality scattered throughout the film, and that the autumnal New England scenery is absolutely lovely (though a very small part of the exteriors were filmed - seamlessly, I might add - at the high school in Los Angeles where I work). Yet, sad to say, "Spinning Into Butter" emerges as probably the clunkiest and most self-satisfied examination of race relations in America since the urban drama "Crash."