ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  kasi lemmons

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  105 minutes

RELEASED  -  4 march 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  caveman's valentine

the caveman's valentine - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the caveman's valentine at

buy the dvd from the caveman's valentine at

romulus ledbetter is a schizophrenic homeless man who sets out to track down the killer of a homeless boy and bring him to justice.

in real life, sam jackson is an accomplished brass instruments player (french horn, trumpet).


picture from the caveman's valentine

picture from the caveman's valentine

picture from the caveman's valentine


one out of four possible stars

This film tries to combine an element of creative filmmaking with a standard who-dunnit story and isn't quite successful. Excepting Samuel L. Jackson as "Romulus Ledbetter." He's the one reason to rent this film. Notice I said rent . . . The tagline for this film goes as follows: "Romulus Ledbetter lives on the edge. The view is incredible." And this is true about the cinematography. Very sylish and unique, this film goes far in creating a visual look that is a major force in this film. The characters, however, don't create half the amount of interest.

Although there are no strictly bad performances, because this film came out of the thriller-mystery genre, the characters should have been the most interesting part of the story. For the mystery element to be noteworthy, the characters need to be able to play up false leads and create red-herrings that are believable. But the story was too simple for that. The plot goes as follows: a cave-dwelling man sets out to track down the killer of a homeless boy and bring him to justice. The story is, at face value, intruguing. It's a detective story from another point of view. But the plot is kind of dead. Without many twists and turns and only one major twist in the plot, this movie become somewhat uninteresting.

I won't dispute that the title was eye-catching, but the story just didn't have it. Something which made the story seem distant was that the insane tendancies that Jackson's character has have nothing to do with the way the story is solved. I don't believe I'm spoiling the plot when I say that the stuff going on in Jackson's head didn't have any bearing on the plot. It's as if the two elements were completely disconnected and just happened to be in the same movie together. Whether this is the fault of the filmmakers to create a cohesive story, or whether it was a tactic used on purpose to make the film into something unique is unknown, but what's clear is that it doesn't seem to work.

This film also misses the mark in trying to communicate to the audience some of the ills of our society's homeless citizens. Although Jackson's performance was strong, his usually are, the character he played was so crazy that he wasn't always sympathetic. His rantings and ravings were so completely annoying at parts that he was no more than a psychotic homeless man. And by the end of the film, he's still insane. So insane, that he belongs in a mental hospital. What was very interesting about the character were the scenes where Jackson played the piano. They were very stylishly done and the music composed for the scenes was very appropriate and almost moving at times. This was probably from the combination of the music and Jackson's performance.

Notice I have positively reviewed Jackson's peformance, but not his character. That's because of the flaws in the story. It's a classic case of good actors doing a good job in a movie that doesn't showcase their abilities. Or, rather, a good actor doing a good job in a movie. Because the co-starring actors in this film either weren't doing their best in front of the camera or were presented with material that wasn't sufficient for their talents. None of the performances were compelling or strong enough to overcome a script that should have never come to the screen.

George Green wrote the screenplay and the novel the film was based on. And since the film was so dependent on the visual style it was presented in, it sometimes left the characters without a foot to stand on. In book form, the style of a story can sometimes be much better realized through the colorful language of prose. In this film, the feelings of these characters were not clear enough to the audience. The pychological nature of this film dictated that the audience know some of what was going on in the heads of the characters. And because much of the plot was advanced by Sam Jackson's rantings, the people around him weren't clear. Their roles weren't made to be as important.

Something else that seemed contrived was in the way the film concluded. There were scant clues dropped along the way to make the ending seem anything more than thrown together. And again, perhaps this was because something was lost in the transition from book to screen, but there was a quick finality to the film which made me think that the filmmakers ran out of money and needed to end the film. The plot of this film just didn't seem very thought out. The resolution didn't seem deserved. And the epilogue to the film, where the guy who solves the case (and I won't say who solves it, just to give you something to which to look forward), tells how he did it, sounds a little too much like the ending to a Scooby Doo episode. Perhaps that's the genre, but with the extremely creative art direction and cinematography, the story should have been better presented

And speaking of art direction, that is the aspect of this film that shined the most, next to Jackson's performance. Of course, the cinematography went hand-in-hand with the art direction, and these two elements worked very well together. Through a variety of set dressings for both inside and outside locations, the look of this film was made to be something to notice while watching the film. But even these creative touches to the film could not make up for the lack of story. That's this film major problem. And it becomes a speed bump for the rest of this story, preventing it from becoming something interesting to think about, rather than simply being something interesting at which to look.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs universal pictures 2001
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact