Question of the Week: 8/1-8/7/16


Have you see the movie “Free State of Jones”?

For those who have, what did you think of it? For those who haven’t, is there something in particular that has discouraged you from seeing it?

10 Responses to Question of the Week: 8/1-8/7/16

  1. I saw it and enjoyed it very much—so much that I decided to read the book again, which led to the discovery that my copy has been misplaced somewhere in the house 🙁

  2. I saw it, and enjoyed it a great deal. I had spent some time with Gary Ross’ historical website beforehand, and so was aware of some of the historical liberties taken in writing and producing the film. Ross set a great example in doing that; most films based on historical events leave the viewer scratching his- or her head, wondering how true this or that was to the historical record. Ross laid it all out for everyone.

    A number of folks didn’t like the cuts between the 1860s and 1940s. I thought they worked very well, although I was aware of them (and their purpose in the story) going in, so that may be why I didn’t find them confusing or distracting.

    In my dotage, I’ve become much more tolerant of filmmakers taking liberties with historical accounts for the sake of making (by their lights) a better, more engaging story. The most accurate film in the work doesn’t inform or enlighten people if it doesn’t get them into the theater. People who go to see Free State of Jones, if they’re so moved, have access to a plethora of material about Newt Knight and his band; from a public history perspective, the highest goal of a film like FSoJ is to get people interested enough in the subject and the period to dig in on their own. Gary Ross’ film does that pretty well.

  3. i saw i t while i liked the accurate time frame and the story line unless i am reading the wrong book it took a lot of historical liberties to even come close to what really happened and that i do not care for . history is history and fiction is fiction

  4. I enjoyed it! As with Andy Hall above, I was aware of 1940s events based on reading Victoria Bynum’s excellent book just before seeing the movie. So, the cuts didn’t bother me as much as they would have if I wasn’t aware of the events. Still, I would have preferred the 1940s events to be at the end of the film.

  5. My wife and I did see it. From a historical perspective, I liked it. It revealed a previously little known story, and showed that not all people who lived in the South owned slaves or desired to be part of the war against the Union. The portrayal of the battle (and hospital) scenes seemed both accurate and dramatic.

    Now from a cinematic storytelling standpoint, I thought it fell a little short. The first part of the movie had a very up-close, moment by moment feel, which I thought worked well. But as the war ended in the film and the presentation of Reconstruction began, there were suddenly long leaps in time, sometimes years, with little explanation. A couple of times I found myself asking, ‘What year are we in here?’ because it wasn’t completely clear how much time had passed.

    The biggest disappointment, though (and frankly, a violation of one of the basic rules of dramatic storytelling), was that a character set up as a villain went unpunished for his misdeeds – not once, but three times! I don’t want to dish out spoilers here, but two antagonists who appeared throughout most of the film simply walked offscreen toward the end and never reappeared. The third appeared for the first time late in the film, apparently committed a heinous crime, showed up once more to add insult to injury, and then vanished. That went beyond being simply an unsatisfying ending; it was a crime against screenwriting.

    The flash forward scenes throughout added an interesting subtext to the overall story, but I think the main storyline was plenty strong enough to stand on its own. Although it had its own drama, I’m not sure whether the 20th century storyline added enough to the film to justify the airtime it took away from the 19th century action.

    I’d say the movie definitely warranted an A for effort, but it was only executed at about a C- level. That said, I should also add that the acting was very good and the cinematography ranged from excellent to spectacular.

    Those are my thoughts on ‘Free State of Jones.’ Remember what you paid for them…that’s probably what they’re worth.

    1. I think that the fact that antagonists of the film weren’t punished is a statement of Reconstruction-era violence. The perpetrators of that violence were not punished, and as much we wanted to see vengeance, that was something that unfortunately never came to those left in the terrorists’ wake.

      1. Your point about letting violence go unpunished during Reconstruction is a valid one from a historical perspective. I was commenting more from a storytelling perspective. When you’re writing a story that includes fictional villains, you’re no longer bound by the facts; therefore, you have to deliver on the premise you’ve created and right the wrongs. Otherwise, the viewer (or reader) is left thinking, “That was pretty good, but the ending sucked because the bad guy walked away!”

        And that’s pretty much how I felt at the end of ‘Free State.’

  6. A bit late in replying to this, the movie won’t be screened in the UK until 30th September. I am much looking forward to seeing this movie. i don’t know if the movie will have a limited Uk release, so I hope my local cinema in Dunfermline will show it, if not I don’t mind going to Edinburgh and spending some time in the city before going to the cinema.
    I received a copy of the Free State of Jones for my birthday and have just about finished it . I found the book very interesting.

  7. My review says: “the film aspires to epic-grade cinema but settles for adventure entertainment with convoluted timeframes that distract rather than illuminate”. Still a 3 out 5 star film.

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