WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The poster for this film features a scantily clad Christina Ricci, on her knees in a dark dingy room, chained to a radiator, with an ominous Samuel L Jackson standing over her, brandishing the chain. It’s a cleverly deceitful image to sell a deceitfully clever film.
In the circumstances, it’s almost a shame to tell you the plot…but here goes:
Contrary to the suggestion on the poster, Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson) is a god-fearing blues singer who’s marriage has broken up and Rae (Christina Ricci) is not a submissive victim but a sex-mad vixen whose boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) has just been sent to Iraq.
One fateful day, Rae is beaten senseless and dumped by the roadside by a man she’s expecting to sleep with. She’s found by a heart-broken Lazarus, as he’s throwing out his ex-wife’s possessions.
He nurses her back to health and finding out about her past from the town gossips, he chains her up for her own protection and sets himself the not inconsiderable challenge of trying to cleanse her soul.
Just when Rae is finally managing to turn her life around, Ronnie returns from Iraq in disgrace, and is none too pleased to find her living with Lazarus.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
This is an unexpectedly entertaining morality tale, with strong, believable performances from both the two leads and the supporting cast.
Even popster Justin Timberlake delivers a convincing turn as the hapless boyfriend.
The film effectively depicts the contrast between the deeply religious older small-town community members and the debauchery of the young.
Ultimately, it’s a typical odd-couple movie, in which an unlikely bond develops between two characters who’d least expect it – here, an ageing god-fearing black man and an impudent, female, white sex addict.
It’s perhaps a little too old-fashioned in its message that sex is bad and abstinence is good, but the meandering route it takes to get there is enjoyable – and has some surprisingly dramatic and shocking scenes – as well as some heart-warming moments that will stick with you.
Lovers of traditional blues music will also enjoy the musical interludes.