Monday, April 26, 2010

A Lesson Before Dying (1999) PG13 - 4 Stars

Another great but sad movie staring Don Cheadle. Based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, this movie was originally made for television. Powerful performances by the entire cast, Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer make you feel the pain of one mans plight behind bars, convicted of a crime he did not commit. A school teacher is sent to the prison to help restore his dignity before he's to be executed. Irma Hall emits such a great emotional portrayal of Miss Emma.

It's the 1940's in the south and Jefferson (Mekhi Phifer), just wanted to spend his day fishing. Instead, two old friends drive up and offer a ride to the river with one quick stop for alcohol at the corner store. Jefferson tags along into the store when suddenly tensions flare and his friends end up shooting the white store clerk owner. Both friends lay dying on the floor with Jefferson left standing to take the blame murder. To try and plead his case, Jefferson's attorney compares him to a hog, just an animal who doesn't know any better. Jefferson rebels against everyone who cares about him, growing that much closer to the animal he was named.

Grant Wiggins (Don Cheadle) is the local school teacher giving lessons to a small time community of African American children. He's hoping he can keep just one of them out of trouble and jail. When the women who helped raise him Miss Emma (Irma P. Hall) requests his services at the prison with Jefferson, it's hard for him to say no. Miss Emma needs Grant's help to restore Jefferson's dignity to that of a proud black man who's not afraid to die. She turns to Sheriff Guidry (Frank Hoyt Taylor), who she has worked for many years to allow Jefferson visits from Grant. Along with Tante Lou (Cicely Tyson), their last wish is to have Jefferson gain some dignity before he is put to death.


1999 - A Lesson Before Dying - Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - Outstanding
Made for Television Movie
Prism Leisure Corporation
Director: Joseph Sargent
Producer: Robert Benedetti Writer: Ernest Gaines
I viewed 10/09

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