The election of Donald Trump has infected so much of my outlook it is not surprising that it dampened my enthusiasm for Loving, which would otherwise have been a hopeful, inspiring story of two regular people and a couple of young ACLU lawyers bringing down Virginia’s hateful anti-miscegenation law. Just look at how backward and racist part of our society used to be, and glory in how far we have come in the last 50 years. Except that racism is coming back and the Supreme Court no longer stands as a beacon of justice. The descendants of the Ku Klux Klan have moved from the fringe to the front page.
The movie’s other problem is its lack of suspense. We know, going in, exactly what happens. Instead of being nervous for our heroes, we feel impatient: come on, let’s get to the Supreme Court decision. The slowness of the movie and the frequent repetition of scenes – there goes Richard Loving slathering concrete on the cement blocks again – only adds to our impatience.
Ruth Negga is being mentioned for acting awards, but I wonder how much of that comes from the Academy’s embarrassment at lack of black Oscar nominees last year. To me, the more challenging and effective portrayal was by Joel Edgerton, who had the harder job of being sympathetic while playing someone who was not too smart. If anyone should get an award, though, it should be the set designer: I was totally convinced we were in 1950s rural Virginia. No award to the casting director: larger-than-Life Michael Shannon in a bit part took me out of Virginia to Hollywood for no good purpose.