Woody Weingarten

Reviews, etc.

New Spike Lee film is flawed and uneven but compelling

John David Washington (right) and Adam Driver play two aspects of the same guy in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”

When it comes to armchair liberals reviewing films, I’m apparently an outlier.

Because I found Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” though compelling, far less the masterwork seen by many of my fellow critics.

I saw a movie that will please most of the choir to which he’s preaching but one heavily flawed by excessive melodrama and ham-fisted use of real footage from newsreels and silent classics such as “Birth of a Nation.”

Not to mention a high level of unevenness.

In superlative moments, however, “BlacKkKlansman,” which won the Grand Prix award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, can be extremely funny and profane, albeit spasmodic.

Bookended by a clip of a bloody Civil War landscape from “Gone With the Wind” and closeups of the Charlottesville violence spawned by a neo-Nazi march, Lee’s latest narrative focuses on a bomb plot and a mostly true tale of a rookie African American cop in 1978 Colorado, Ron Stallworth, who from a distance, with the help of a white, Jewish American accomplice, becomes a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Portrayals of historic figures like KKK grand wizard David Duke and Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture) are vital.

But thinly veiled and blatant references to Donald J. Trump in this awkwardly titled flick by a director never known for subtlety supplied me with no practical paths toward resistance or resolution.

Despite first-rate pacing, cinematography, soundtrack music and acting (by, for example, John David Washington, Denzel’s son, as Stallworth; Adam Driver as, Flip Zimmerman, the white copy who stands in with the Klan as Stallworth; and Topher Grace as Duke), I rank the epic “BlacKkKlansman,” ultimately, as an attention-grabbing and provocative but remarkably unsatisfying effort.

Perhaps because we live in a time when the U.S. President has been steering other bigots by his frequent slurs and rants and attempts to perpetuate racism, a film that repeatedly depicts the worst of the worst in regard to prejudice, merely —in my opinion — fuels the incalculable polarization that’s dogging our nation.

Even if it goads spirited discussions among well-insulated, well-protected armchair liberals.

And even if guilt-ridden Tinseltown thinkers eventually exalt it with 2018’s best-movie Oscar.

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