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Beauty and the Beast

Diamond edition adds to a top-notch film —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Beauty and the Beast fall for each other

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In recent years there have been some incisive portraits of the South. David Gordon Green has made three since the late 1990s: George Washington, All the Pretty Girls, and Undertow. And last year’s DIFF prominently featured the haunting documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, which enjoyed wider release after the festival.

The softspoken black man faces the hateful redneck
The softspoken black man faces the hateful redneck

Where these films captured the heart, soul, and pace of the South, The Unseen seems to only capture the language and the stereotypes. The characters have names, but it’s easier to think of them by their type: Harold is the hateful redneck. Roy (Steve Harris, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) is the softspoken black man. Sammy is the blind, retarded brother. There are women, too: Kathleen the redneck, Lucile the desperate one, and the smart one who used to work for Roy’s father.

The stereotypes are bad enough to make this movie “skippable,” but when writer/director Lisa France plays them for laughs — as when the rednecks are fascinated by the news from the Enquirer that Elvis was a triplet — it’s almost painful.

These characters explore several possible stories, but only a few of them are developed into full plot threads. The best one involves Roy naively helping Sammy escape from his brother’s house, where he is kept locked night and day. They walk around town and then drive to Atlanta to try to see Sammy’s mother, all while Harold, who would explode if he knew what they were doing, is out trying to sell his homebrew.

The worst thread has to be the revelation at the end of the film regarding Harold’s past. The hateful redneck’s whole life is excused/explained by a single childhood incident involving his father, who is also a hateful redneck (standing conveniently in front of a wall-sized Confederate flag). As he pounds his hatefulness into the boy’s head, so too are the hopes for any subtlety and nuance beaten into submission.

  • Lyndsey White: I agree that a lot of the characters in this movie are stereotypical ideas of southern people, but I've never heard of "the smart one who used to work for Roy’s father" being a stereotypical southern person.

    Also, I live in South Carolina, and trust me, these people are real. Not all stereotypes are bull. Actually, a lot of southern stereotypes are true.

    So maybe the movie isn't flattering to the south, but it portrays real-life characters, it's entertaining, dramatic, funny, and the cast is excellent.

    I really don't see anything in your review against The Unseen except for your bashing against the stereotypical characters in it. If you write negative reviews on every stereotypical movie, you must write a lot of negative reviews. June 15, 2006 reply
  • Robert Melton: Where can I find this movie, there is a link in the article on this movie on this website connecting to Amazon.com, but the movie is not there. September 13, 2006 reply
  • Marty Mapes: Sorry 'bout that. We put the Amazon link on the page by default, as they have almost everything in our database. But sometimes these festival films don't get a distribution deal and eager audiences are left without a way to see the film. Your best bet for finding a film without a distributor is to try to find the director herself. Wish I could help, but I don't have anything but Google to offer. Best of luck. If you find it, post your answer here for the next person. September 13, 2006 reply
  • isadora: looks like the dvd can be purchased right from the web site. good luck. http://www.morofilms.com/theunseen/
    January 19, 2007 reply