American Violet

Posted by schnolis on May 6th, 2009 filed in Reviews

AMERICAN VIOLETDee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) woke up on a day no different than any other. She roused her four kids, made breakfast, got them out to her mom Alma (Alfre Woodard), and headed off to work waiting tables. People spoke freely about their days, conversing over breakfast in the diner. All was ordinary until the moment police stormed into her resaurant and arrested her.

I cannot imagine a much more disturbing and frightening circumstane. Dee Roberts, the heroine of this real-life story, was just one of many people targeted in sweeping drug raids that occurred all over Texas. She was targeted for being poor and black, and likely unable to defend herself. A racist District Attorney Calvin Beckett (Michael O’Keefe) was using convictions via guilty plea-agreements in return for federal drug money.

Dee was more fortunate that most in her circumstance. Her mother managed to get her bail reduced through a petition campaign. Then with some help from a couple of ACLU lawyers and a sympathetic local attorney, they fought back against the DA. Against formidable odds and recrimination, they sued for discriminaion.

This case highlights the difficulties many folks face in trying to receive justice in our society. Those who cannot afford a good lawyer are often left to make plea agreements that will have long-lasting ramifications that aren’t easily understood. We all must do our part to voice our opposition to injustice and inequality, and American Violet does well to begin that conversation

What I liked: A touching story of a caring family struck by calamity. A solid cast led quite powerfully by Nicole Beharie, someone I cannot recall seeing before. The DA was given all kinds of chances to be a complete villain and yet sometimes even acted civilly as his duty would require.

What I disliked: A formula that was a little common, especially for the underdog drama. Some of the parts our well-established characters played could have been farmed out to new characters to help move the story points along. Alfre Woodard’s character Alma tended to bounce back and forth between supporting grandmother and nit-picking authoritarian.

Rating: 7 of 10

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