American Violet
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American Violet



Through the course of history man has always sought some form of chemical alteration of consciousness. Initially the psychoactive substances that gained widespread popular included ethanol, better known as alcohol and an extremely extensive range of pharmacological agents frequently derived from plants. While the preferred substances are subject to frequent change the desire to chemically alter perception of reality remains fairly constant. One other factor that is subject to change is society’s reaction to drug use. This tends to swing between casual acceptances to draconian prohibition. During the presidential administration of Richard Nixon war was declared war on drugs. The Federal Government responded by creating the Drug Enforcement Administration to wage this war on the broadest scale. On the State level many Governors pushed to drastically increase the punishment for drug related crime and allocate additional funds to police forces for the investigation of drug activity. While this many sound reasonable especially in light of the many lives that are ruined by drug abuse but in reality the zeal for prosecution and need to justify the enormous allocation of public funds has resulted in documented cases of mistakes by law enforcement that resulted in tragedy. A young mother in Texas, Regina Kelly, found herself in the regrettable center of such a nightmare. As with almost any film based on a true story events have been altered for dramatic effect and, as they used to say on ‘Dragnet’ the names have been change although not always to protect the innocent.

Bringing a true story that carries with such gravity of theme and message creates a difficult task for the author of the screenplay. Bill Haney had to strike a delicate balance between proper respect for the real person behind the story and providing a full measure of entertainment to the audience. Fortunately he deported himself extremely well. It would have been quite simple a matter for this script to have come across as a cheap exploitation or a made for cable Lifetime movie. Instead the story shows the convergence of circumstances that ruin a young mother’s reputation and life. Dee Roberts (Nicole Beharie) is a single mother of four young children trying her best to support her family working in a dinner in the small Tessa town where they reside. Life is difficult for Dee but she is accustomed to hard work and the well being of her children is worth any sacrifice. This dedication to her family is tested to the extreme when the District Attorney, Calvin Beckett (Michael O'Keefe) leads a drug raid targeting the housing project where Dee and her children live. As a result Dee is removed from her workplace in handcuffs and detained in jail. No drugs had been found; the basis for her arrest was the completely uncorroborated statement of a man himself arrested on drug changes looking to reduce his own charges. Nothing the police discovered in that raid or subsequent investigations provided any tangible evidence of any criminal activity on Dee’s part. The DA confronts her with a decision with no reasonable outcome for Dee; accept being a felon convicted of drug dealing and go home or remain remanded in custody and fight the charges which would result in having her children removed from her. Dee’s own mother (Alfre Woodard) tells her to just accept the stain on her good name and not risk her family. Dee stubbornly refuses seeking out the assistance of a lawyer from the UCLA David Cohen (Tim Blake Nelson) and a narcotics agent, Sam Conroy (Will Patton) to fight the bigoted, power driven DA.

The performances here are exceptional. This is especially true for the award worthy performance provided by Ms Beharie. She imbibes such incredible pathos to her portrayal of this young woman that you will find yourself swept up in the sheer emotional power of the story. The direction By Tim Disney (great grand nephew of Walt) is spot on excellent, the pacing is impeccable and the detail oriented cinematography perfectly rendered by the high definition Blu-ray release. This film is one that should not be missed.

Posted 10/11/09

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