The UnPopular Opinion: The Green Mile

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


If there are two things in this world that go better together than Stephen King and Frank Darabont, I am not sure what they could be. Like peanut butter and jelly or sex and more sex, Darabont and King share a connection that somehow makes the other all the more better. You could easily make a night of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE MIST without missing any elements of horror, drama, comedy, or prestige filmmaking and storytelling. That is why it is such a damn shame that THE GREEN MILE is such a vast and overrated production. Sharing more in common with Darabont's THE MAJESTIC, THE GREEN MILE is a Frank Capra-esque epic that is both overlong and melodramatic. Both King and Darabont have done so much better than THE GREEN MILE that it is astounding how many awards nominations were heaped on this borderline racist movie. Of all the columns I have written for JoBlo.com, writing this one makes me feel the worst but it has to be said that this movie is just flat out awful.

When THE GREEN MILE was first being adapted, I was ecstatic at the prospect of the creative team behind THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION getting back together. I should have known that lightning in a bottle rarely happens more than once. What made THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION so good was partially the fact that no one saw it coming. Darabont was a virtual unknown before the film having gained credibility as the writer of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET III, THE FLY II, and THE BLOB along with a stint on George Lucas' The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Having directed a short film based on a King story, Darabont chose to adapt one of the bestselling author's lesser known tales and history speaks for the rest of that story. With THE GREEN MILE, Darabont chose to adapt one of King's bestselling works of the 1990s. Released initially as a serial with volumes published monthly, THE GREEN MILE harkened back to a different type of story that evoked Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and other southern potboilers. As a book, THE GREEN MILE worked thanks to King's exhaustive character development and details. On the big screen, Darabont's creative choices of theme and tone all but doomed the adaptation.

The UnPopular Opinion, Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Stephen King, Frank Darabont, The Green Mile, Drama, prison

There is no doubt that THE GREEN MILE is a technically accomplished production, especially for a marquee studio film positioned as clear Oscar bait. Made for a scant $60 million, THE GREEN MILE shows it's strained budget. Aside from scenes set outdoors, the majority of the sets appear artificial and nothing like a true working prison. Whereas THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was filmed in a real prison, THE GREEN MILE feels like it should have had a bigger budget. Despite a great score and a very talented cast that includes David Morse, Sam Rockwell, James Cromwell and Bonnie Hunt, the rest of the film feels very telegraphed. Even though Stephen King claims he envisioned Tom Hanks in the lead role, Hanks is at his least proficient in this movie. Maybe it was the forced drawl that all of the actors adopted or maybe it was that the material is just too on the nose for an actor like Hanks, but his take on Paul Edgecomb feels generic and cliche. Don't even get me started on Michael Clarke Duncan.

Like we all learned in TROPIC THUNDER, actors should never go full retard. The late Michael Clarke Duncan doesn't quite go there in his role as the Magical Negro character John Coffey, but he gets close. If anything, Duncan's portrayal is a clearly inspired take on the similar character of Lennie in Of Mice and Men. But, the problem with John Coffey lies in the mistake that Stephen King made when he wrote the role. Centering the entire drama of THE GREEN MILE around a mentally deficient black man during the Great Depression who shows a group of stodgy old white men how to appreciate life and to love is both racist and completely transparent. Even if race where not a topic here and the roles were reversed, the decision that Frank Darabont made in telling THE GREEN MILE as this grand epic about redemption and faith stinks of pandering to the audience. From Coffey's backstory to his eventual death, every aspect of the tale feels forced and lacks the intensity of the novel.

THE GREEN MILE wants badly to matter. But, to be politically relevant or socially conscious, a film has to tell us something new. Instead, THE GREEN MILE is no different than dozens of films that came before it. You can see the similarities between this and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION with the biggest difference being the supernatural elements of the tale. However, the gritty and down to Earth feel of the prior film is what THE GREEN MILE truly needed. There is nothing natural or real about this film. Like the films of Frank Capra, THE GREEN MILE is Hollywood through and through. I am always appreciative of a well made studio film, but everything in this movie comes off as if Darabont wanted to make the mouths of the executives at Warner Bros drool and offer him whatever project he wanted next. The biggest shame is that the movies that came after THE GREEN MILE, namely THE MIST and later The Walking Dead, both have the grit and grime that is missing from this film. It seems appropriate that two years after THE GREEN MILE, Darabont helmed a true Capra-inspired movie in THE MAJESTIC and that film was a massive bomb.

The ultimate shortcoming of THE GREEN MILE is due to the fact that every character outside of the main two played by Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan are infinitely more interesting than our leads. Sam Rockwell and Doug Hutchison especially shine in the villainous roles of the movie. Hutchison in particular is perfectly cast as the dickish Percy who is responsible for the most heinous acts in the film. But, like everything in THE GREEN MILE, his role is reduced to a caricature of what should have been an award-worthy performance. Coming in at just over three hours and rated R, THE GREEN MILE could have pushed many more envelopes than it did in service of the story. Instead, we are given a movie that feels like it was actually a PG-13 effort masquerading as a more adult movie. Capra would have been disappointed in Darabont not sticking with one direction: wholesome or dark. But THE GREEN MILE is ultimately a tale of redemption and acceptance hidden under a mask of something totally different.

The UnPopular Opinion, Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Stephen King, Frank Darabont, The Green Mile, Drama, prison

Call me out for my claims of racism in regards to this movie, but it clearly is. Had this movie been cast with no minority roles, we would likely have overlooked it as another generic period melodrama. But, the moment you check off the hot button trigger topics of minorities, mental impairment, cancer, police brutality, and capital punishment and you have yourself a lightning rod for media attention. Couple that with an allstar cast and how could you go wrong? But THE GREEN MILE goes so very wrong in every conceivable way. This is a movie that should have been made very differently and probably by a different filmmaker. As much as Iove the works of Frank Darabont, he did not make the right choices here. Don't let the Oscar nods fool you, this movie is a clunker. If you are one of those who loved it dearly and consider it a great film, I am fully prepared to list for you at least two dozen movies that did everything THE GREEN MILE has to offer and did it better. Not every movie is meant to be the Best Picture, but the movies nominated for that honor should be a hell of a lot better than this.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com



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