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Beloved Jonathan Demme directed this adaptation of Toni Morrison's fact-based fifth novel (winner of a 1988 Pulitzer Prize), written in an experimental stream-of-consciousness flow and capturing the impact and aftermath of slavery on the human soul. In 1873, middle-aged Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) lives near Cincinnati with her teenage daughter, Denver (Kimberly Elise). She gets a surprise visit from her old friend Paul D (Danny Glover), whom she knew when they were both slaves on the Kentucky plantation Sweet Home. Paul D moves in, and a number of mysteries are introduced, including Sethe's memories of her dead older daughter and the fact that Sethe has been abandoned by her husband, two sons, and Denver's grandmother, Baby Suggs (Beah Richards). When a feral, insect-covered, stuttering teenager (Thandie Newton) turns up at Sethe's house, she is nursed back to health by Denver and called "Beloved." Violent flashbacks begin to explore shocking episodes from Sethe's past. (The film is rated R "for violent images, sexuality and nudity.") Hints of the supernatural surface as the question arises -- could Beloved be Sethe's older daughter, back from the dead? This film was a pet project of producer-star Oprah Winfrey, who spent over a decade bringing this work to the screen after she bought the film rights in 1987. With titles fashioned by leading poster/titles designer Pablo Ferro and music by Rachel Portman, director Demme filmed in a variety of locations, including Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Civic Center, Lancaster's Landis Valley Museum), Maryland (Fair Hill Natural Resources Area), and Delaware (Old New Castle). ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi
Oprah Winfrey Presents: Their Eyes Were Watching God Originally telecast March 6, 2005, by ABC, this "Oprah Book Club" TV movie is adapted from Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, a certified classic of African-American literature. Covering the first 30 years of the 20th century, the film is set in Eatonville, FL, a largely black community and the home of free-spirited Janie Crawford (Halle Berry). Forced into marriage with a much older and much wealthier man at age 16, Janie endures both this unhappy union and a second equally dismal marriage, trapped not only by the bonds of matrimony but also by the rigid patriarchal society of the period. Her only happiness is manifested in her ongoing illicit romance with a younger, none too reliable gent known as Tea Cake (Michael Ealy) -- much to the shock and dismay of her very proper neighbors. Devotees of the original novel expressed displeasure over the film's sketchy portrayal of the protagonist, a multidimensional character reduced to an impulsive hedonist for the purposes of the screenplay (though Halle Berry's towering performance more than compensates for the weaknesses of the scripts). More than that, the fans of the Hurston original bemoaned the loss of the novel's pronounced racial content, which harshly criticized the caste system within the Southern black community of the early 20th century, whereby a light-skinned woman was regarded as "superior," and thus more desirable, than her darker-skinned sisters. No one, however, could find fault with performance of the great Ruby Dee as Nanny, nor the film's lush production trappings. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi