|American Violet (2008)|
American Violet tells the true story of an African-American mother of four girls arrested and falsely accused of selling crack cocaine. Set in a fictional Texas town with the 2000 presidential election as a fitting backdrop of confusion and corruption, we see Dee Roberts fight--with the help of ACLU lawyers--to clear her name and the names of other innocent people arrested in a broad sweep that day.
Newcomer Nicole Beharie gives a powerful performance as Dee, and the supporting cast, including Alfre Woodard as Dee's mother, and Tim Blake Nelson and Malcolm Barrett as lawyers for the ACLU, do an equally good job.
It's impossible to not love Dee--a beautiful woman, a kind and patient mother, a hard worker, and a caring friend. Her temper gets the best of her once in the film, but she's protecting her children from their alcoholic father and his accused child molester girlfriend, and can hardly be faulted for it. I'm inclined to think the movie tries too hard to make her character likable. In contrast, Dee's friend and neighbor Gladys--who is not a conventionally attractive woman, and does not have four adorable children trailing her--is a compelling and empathetic character, but the film completely drops the ball, even failing to credit the actor who plays her. Gladys is Dee's inspiration for continuing to fight the DA even after her charges are dropped (because Gladys took a plea deal, while Dee would not), but we don't get to explore Gladys or her situation. I'm curious as to why she's part of the story, but not really allowed to be a character in the film. While the movie is about Dee, I would've liked to get to know Gladys a bit.