Levity

An earnest drama about one man's tentative attempt to atone for the decades-old murder of a convenience store clerk that he committed when he himself was just a teenager. After 22 years of incarceration — first in a juvenile facility, then prison — Manual Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton) is physically free but haunted by the face of his victim, Abner...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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An earnest drama about one man's tentative attempt to atone for the decades-old murder of a convenience store clerk that he committed when he himself was just a teenager. After 22 years of incarceration — first in a juvenile facility, then prison — Manual Jordan (Billy Bob Thornton) is physically free but haunted by the face of his victim, Abner Easley (Luke Robertson). He's done a lot of thinking and wants to make amends for the impulsive act of violence that changed so many lives, and looking to Eastern spiritual traditions for guidance, he discovers a five-step blueprint for redemption that begins with admission of guilt. It continues through remorse, making peace with God (a sticking point, since Manual doesn't believe in God) and reparations in kind to the wronged party (another thorny requirement, since the wronged party is dead) and, finally, proving that in the same circumstances he would now do the right thing. A gray man at loose ends, Manual returns to the unnamed city where Easley's sister, Adele (Holly Hunter), still lives. Irresistibly drawn to the scene of the crime, he makes a fateful decision when, as he's lost in mournful contemplation, the pay phone in the convenience-store parking lot rings: Manual answers. And when the raspy-voiced caller directs him to a community center in a run-down neighborhood, he goes. The voice belongs to pot-smoking preacher Miles Evans (Morgan Freeman), who knows a lost soul when he sees one and offers Manual a place to stay and a way to earn his keep. Miles's community center is across the street from a club frequented by hard-partying suburban teens, and Miles lets them park their cars in the safety of his lot in return for listening to a 15-minute sermon. If Manual will handle parking lot duties, he can stay at the center. Manual slowly reenters the land of the emotional living through relationships with club-kid Sofia Mellinger (Kirsten Dunst), whose swanky address hides a sad secret; a group of rowdy neighborhood youngsters who vandalized a construction site and got community detention in lieu of jail time; and Adele, whose son (Geoffrey Wigdor) is headed down the same violent path that claimed Manual. Screenwriter and first-time director Ed Solomon has a long list of slick Hollywood product to his credit; this is clearly the personal project that's been burning a hole in his hard drive; like most such projects, it's just about insufferable, annointing its characters' weeping psychic wounds with redemptive clich&#233s. It's hard not to feel sorry for the high-profile cast, obviously working for brownie points in heaven — they're so good, yet nothing they do can make the movie fly.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: An earnest drama about one man's tentative attempt to atone for the decades-old murder of a convenience store clerk that he committed when he himself was just a teenager. After 22 years of incarceration — first in a juvenile facility, then prison … (more)

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