<i>Green Mile</i> Stretches Hours

CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard reviews four feature films: The Green Mile, Magnolia, Cradle Will Rock and Girl, Interrupted.
There are so many new movies for the holiday season that we won't have time to shop or pray. Moreover, so far none of them are anything an adult needs to be ashamed of seeing.

For instance, there's Stephen King's The Green Mile, in which good and evil fight it out for the soul of man in a Louisiana death house in the 1930s. Tom Hanks will win, of course, because the Christ-like and miracle-working Michael Clarke Duncan is on his side, not to mention a magical mouse.

In order to make the obvious less obscure, The Green Mile does go on for more than three hours, underlining and over-explaining. But those of you in favor of capital punishment need to see what the electrocution really looks like.

Magnolia, the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie that most resembles an old Robert Altman movie, except without a brain, also goes on for almost three hours.

This is not only to get in all the good acting by Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, and even Tom Cruise, but also because there are two of everything: two fathers dying of cancer, two children who hate them, two TV quiz kids and two saints, one a nurse and the other a cop. I wish I could show you the shower of frogs.

Reviews by CBS News Sunday Morning Critic John Leonard
In Cradle Will Rock, Tim Robbins wants all of us to go on strike, even if we can't sing. In telling us the story of the Federal Theatre's 1937 production of Marc Blitzstein's proletarian opera, he elicits wondrous performances from Cherry Jones, Emily Watson, John Turturro and, of course, Susan Sarandon.

But he also trashes both Orson Welles and John Houseman, as if they were as irresponsible as Big Steel and Big Banking. This astonishing mindlessness is almost redeemed by the last scene, when actors barred from the stage rise from their seats to sing.

Best of all is Girl, Interrupted, James Mangold's adaptation of Susannah Kaysen's remarkable memoir about her two years in a mental hospital in the late 1960s. Winona Ryder, who seems not to have aged a minute since Heathers, manages to hold her own as Susanna, against another scary performance by bad-girl Angelina Jolie as the sociopathic Lisa.

To be sure, while these wounded young women try to figure out if they're safer hugging one another inside a locked ward at Claymore than they would be in the outside craziness, we hear too many violins and voice-overs. But we also meet professionals like Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave instead of the usual movie caricatures of psychiatriss and social workers. Madness and sadness hurt.

There is a scene in the middle of Girl, Interrupted, when these young women escape from their rooms at night, descend into the basement of the hospital and, against the rules and against all logic, actually go bowling.

I could tell you that this is the best rendition of "Ten Pins" in the surprisingly long history of bowling in movies, which it is. But I'd rather tell you that it is as well a rhapsodic passage, an exaltation, more convincing than any death row miracle, revolutionary workers anthem or Biblical scourge of frogs. For a glorious moment, the angels strike.

Written by John Leonard
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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