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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Beloved (1998)



Reviews and Comments

Beloved is, in a great many ways, a remarkable accomplishment. It is an acting accomplishment for talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who delivers a dynamic, engrossing performance that surmounts a daunting challenge: it makes the audience forget Oprah Winfrey the celebrity in favor of the character she plays. It is an acting accomplishment too for Thandie Newton, who plays a girl of uncertain origin who seems to be many years younger than her body. And a performance unfortunately unduly overshadowed by these two, Kimberly Elise gives a remarkably strong performance as Winfrey's daughter. I hope Elise gets the recognition she deserves; she commands most of her scenes, which isn't easy when you're starring with the likes of Danny Glover.

The movie has an unusual story. On one hand, it's a ghost story. On the other, it's about ex-slaves adjusting to life after the Civil War. Neither story is particularly pleasant but both are compelling. What's refreshing about this movie is that it doesn't become too preoccupied -- as is often the temptation today -- with portraying the horrors of slavery gratuitously. Beloved's characters are characters first, and the horrors of slavery are depicted insofar as it serves the characters and their story. This is not to say the movie isn't brutal and disconcerting. This is not the kind of movie you watch to be entertained. Beloved can be downright painful, and it's certainly not for the squeamish. Yet it is a beautifully crafted if slow-paced human drama, which is an unusual and remarkable accomplishment for a movie involving a haunting.