[A] powerful performance by newcomer Nicole Beharie,” giving the film a B+ rating.
Dee (Nicole Beharie) is truly superb in every way. She is a tough lady with the support of a tough mother and a faithful pastor and African-American church that does not reject her because of her past sins. (She had four children, at least two out of wedlock and she clearly made a number of moral mistakes to get herself into the stress she lived in during 2000 when the story unfolds.) Her mother (Alfre Woodard) is the best known actress in the film and plays her motherly role superbly, struggling with supporting her daughter and the four young kids while Dee battles the system.
The viewer is brought face-to-face with the ugly reality of racism in America in this film. The viewer is also brought face-to-face with the African-American church in a small town Texas context. As I watched the commentary (in words) roll at the end of the film I asked several burning questions:
How come there are 2.3 million people in our prisons and 90% are there without convictions but by plea-bargains? Is this justice in any meaningful sense of the term?
How can the white churches in places like Melody, Texas (and many other places not simply in the South) be so blind to their continuation of racial prejudice?
How much of the visceral hatred for President Obama is still rooted in racism? I oppose a number of the president’s policies, as readers no doubt know. I also believe a lot of the emotional response to him is influenced by race far more than many conservatives will admit.
If you want to see the impact racism still has upon our legal system American Violet is powerful and evocative resource. I found it compelling. It was one of the best films I've saw in 2009.