[Two Mediocre Features from People Who Should Know Better]

…and which I like less the more I think about them.

* Conviction is the true story of the Waters siblings: Kenny, who was wrongfully sentenced to life for murder, and Betty Anne, who became a lawyer (including finally getting her undergraduate degree) so she could represent him. The cast is excellent, of course: Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell as the sister and brother, and Minnie Driver as Betty Anne’s friend in law school (their relationship being the best part of the movie), several notable supporting roles (Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo). The child actors were strong as well, particularly Conor Donovan who first impressed me in Twelve and Holding.

However. The film is oddly paced and the story tension is basically nonexistent. Betty Anne has to get her GED & then suddenly she’s in law school, her husband is there and then he’s gone, and though I expect in real life money was an issue, there was no mention of it in the film. We know how the story ends, and there’s only about a half a second when we ever doubt it’ll get there. Basically, it’s a TV movie with an Oscar cast.

* Hereafter is essentially three stories, dully told, and pulled together by a third-act coincidence that exceeded my ability to suspend disbelief. It’s particularly disappointing coming from usually-excellent screenwriter Peter Morgan (Tony Blair trilogy, of which The Queen is the best known feature, also Frost/Nixon & The Last King of Scotland). A French woman has a near death experience, a boy in London suffers the death of his brother, & Matt Damon decides he’d like to stop talking to dead people and start taking cooking classes. They all meander in the direction of a plot, never really arriving anywhere, and there are a few strange technical things: lighting choices, disparate senses of time between the stories.

A gentleman in my row kept falling asleep. He had my sympathies.

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