Free State of Jones, The

Also sat through the unending and unendingly earnest Matthew McConaughey civil war era movie The Free State of Jones. Based on a true story (not sure how true) of a bunch of confederate deserters, runaway slaves, and victimized civilians who form a rag-tag guerrilla swamp army to keep the confederate army off their land and away from their food and supplies. McConaughey’s characters believes no one should be forced to fight for a rich man’s cause, what you put in the ground you keep, and that all men are children of god and cannot be owned.
 
This movie does nothing wrong except be an ungodly 2 1/2 hours of earnest, stilted dullness. I give it credit for telling an important and interested story but it goes about it in the slowest and dreariest way possible. Good production values and good acting and even good dialog can’t save a movie this willing to sabotage itself. I appreciate it didn’t have excessive melodrama and Hollywood-style battle sequences but sometimes maybe a movie needs a little melodrama and Hollywood-style battle sequences. This movie did. Or it needed to tell a tighter story, or maybe a more expansive story, or add more dramatic Hollywood moments, or something. It just sits there on screen and moves like molasses.
 
But I will still give it credit for one thing. the Free State of Jones part of the story doesn’t last the full (unending) run time. It spends a lot of time in the post-war South. It bounces forward in time with archival photos of the era and title cards explaining how the north sends troops to keep the south in line, how the Klan arose to fight back, the voting rights act, the suppression of those votes, and so on. It then randomly flashes forward in time to a Mississippi courtroom in the 1950s and a man accused of being 1/8th black who has married a white woman in violation of the law. Probably could have cut that, or maybe not… the man is the great, great great (?) grandson of McCaughneye’s character so I get where its going but, guys, this movie is already 2 1/2 hours long.
 
So, yeah, this is a well-meaning movie and tells an important story that is interesting, in theory. But rarely does a movie just go so wrong without any specific reason other than being a long, drawn-out slogfest. I wish I could say it was great, wish I could say it was worth it. But good lord is it a long sit in a dark room.
Score: 68

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