Native Son (1986)

PG   |    |  Drama, Romance


Native Son (1986) Poster

In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up.

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5.9/10
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18 December 2010 | mjneu59
5
| lots of talent, but a dramatic misfire
Few movies ever measure up to the books they're based on, and sometimes the only safe way to judge a literary adaptation is on its own terms, as if the source material never existed. Which makes the screen version of Richard Wright's celebrated novel — faithfully set in 1940 Chicago — a curiously dated social artifact. It demands a little mental arithmetic to update the story, about an angry young ghetto black who, in a moment of fear and desperation, accidentally suffocates the daughter of the wealthy, white family for whom he works as a servant. The issues of black and white are rightfully shown to be shaded with gray, but the production may be too slick for its own good. The film might have worked better had it been more harsh and controversial, more willing to disturb the complacency of self-satisfied viewers who, like Elizabeth McGovern's character, seek to prove their open-minded color blindness by their condescending ignorance of the wide gulf separating the two races. A talented, high profile cast is enough reason to recommend the film.

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