The Brie Larson Project – Just Mercy

Posted: July 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

This may be the most difficult thing I have ever written. If you’re reading it, that means I came up with something that I felt was suitable for consumption, but I’m probably not the most reliable source for something like that. You can let me know.

I need to say right at the top that I am a white male, and I have received all the privileges that come along with that. I like to think, however, that I have not abused those privileges, nor have they made me an ungrateful or all-around bad person. I also know, however, that I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to judging people, and I have said and done things (mostly pitiful attempts at humor) that I will regret for the rest of my life. And if I ever did anything noteworthy, someone could certainly scour the internet and find horrible things I said a decade ago and discredit me. But I also have to confess that I don’t do enough to try and change the minds of the actual bad people.

But these days, there is no room for white guilt. There is no room for worrying about the mistakes of the past. There is only room for the present and the future. However, sometimes the past can tell us stories that help illuminate the present, and Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, and Brie Larson, is just such a story.

I had always intended to see this movie, but after the horrible murder of George Floyd and the events that followed, I saw that it was streaming for free on multiple outlets, and felt that the universe was telling me to watch it now. Warner Bros. made it free to try to educate people “about our past and the countless injustices that have led us to where we are today,” as they posted on Twitter. You know it’s time to take a stand when even a money-grubbing Hollywood studio is putting their greed aside and releasing a movie for free to try and help a cause.

Joking aside, I hope you all took advantage of the free streaming and watched it like I did. Not because it is the greatest movie ever made, but because it’s the kind of movie you watch and think, “That seems like it would never happen,” until you realize that it is a true story, and it did happen.

Just Mercy is based on the book by Bryan Stevenson, a Black , Harvard-educated lawyer who took his degree to Alabama and decided to found EJI (Equal Justice Initiative), a non-profit organization that fights for the rights of “the most vulnerable people in American society.” One of his first cases is an attempt to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx. McMillian was convicted of killing an 18 year-old white girl, despite the fact that there was no evidence to support the charge. But a white girl was murdered in Alabama, so the white sheriff and white D.A. needed to pin it on someone. McMillian was given the murder rap because people were angry at him for having an affair with a white woman, and the all-white jury had no problem convicting him, even though the evidence was flimsy, at best.

McMillian spent six years on death row, until Stevenson found proof that the key witness against him (played brilliantly by Tim Blake Nelson) was coerced into saying McMillian did it, despite the fact that he was three hours away at the time, and the verdict was overturned.

What amazed me the most about this movie is that it happened in the 80’s. And not the 1880’s, either. This happened in my lifetime. There is an image of Larson’s character, Eva Ansley, who worked for EJI for many years, watching a piece about the case that aired on 60 Minutes with hr family, and there’s an original Nintendo on the floor. The same kind I had back then. It’s a small detail, but nothing is placed in a movie by accident. Whoever dressed the set put it there, probably because Ansley’s family had one, and also because it added the element of reality, to drive home the point that this horrible thing happened, and it happened pretty recently. And as evidenced by recent events, these kinds of things are still happening.

At this point, I usually take a few paragraphs to rip on the movie I’m discussing (Unless it’s a Marvel movie). How the writing could have been better, or whatever, and yes, this movie it not perfect. For example, I wish there was a little more drama in the climactic “overturn” scene. It all seemed rather simple. The D.A. basically knew he was beat and changed his mind. I know reality is reality, but maybe just filming it a little more dramatically would have helped. But that’s just me nitpicking. It’s an amazing story that needs to be told. I don’t do star ratings or letter grades, and the acting and storytelling is great (Foxx, Jordan and Larson are definitely three of the best working actors right now), but this movie gets an A+++++++++++ and a thousand stars just on pure emotion.

And now at this point I usually try and say something funny or put an Amazon link to the movie I’m talking about to try and make a few pennies off this. This time, however, I’m putting a link for someone else to hopefully make money: Please donate to the EJI here. If you can’t donate, show support in other ways by following their social media here for facebook, here for the Twitter, and here for The Gram. I’m betting it’s not something you’ll regret.

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