The Miracle Mile

The Miracle Mile

The Miracle Mile

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Dec. 15 1999 3:30 AM

The Miracle Mile

Movies

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The Green Mile (Warner Bros.). The critics render a split verdict on Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont's three-hour adaptation of Stephen King's serial novel. The film chronicles the time served on death row by a massive, simple, and saintly black man (Michael Duncan) convicted of molesting and murdering two young girls, as well as his relationship with his white jailer, played by Tom Hanks. Some are moved by the film's themes of redemption and spirituality; Roger Ebert says it's full of "vivid characters, humor, outrage and emotional release" (the Chicago Sun-Times). Less kind reviews note the "inadvertently racist overtones" of the relationship between Hanks and Duncan (Janet Maslin, the New York Times) and say the movie has the "suffocating deliberateness of a river of molasses" (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). (David Edelstein pans the movie in Slate: "not all of the movie is melodramatic, pseudo-mystical drivel--only about two hours and 15 minutes.")

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (Buena Vista Pictures). Not surprisingly, a slew of bad reviews for this bottom-feeding comedy about a fish tank cleaner who falls into the gigolo business by accident: "Among devotees of comedy, Deuce Bigalow is for the undemanding" (Lawrence Van Gelder, the New York Times). Some go so far as to insult the cast, calling star Rob Schneider "a runty fellow of no particular talent" (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today). One reviewer pipes up in the movie's defense, calling Deuce "an hour-and-a-half goof on kinky sex, bathroom humor and inner happiness … a considerable cut above the crop of recent features by other SNL alums" (which is not saying much) and that it's "funnier than it deserves to be, not to mention rather sweet in a sophomoric, manwhore-with-a-heart-of-gold kind of way" (Michael O'Sullivan, the Washington Post). (Click here to find out more about Rob Schneider.)

Book

Hillary's Choice, by Gail Sheehy (Random House). Sheehy's psychological biography of the first lady is deemed old news by the critics ("compartmentalization, the need of children of alcoholics to please and Hillary the enabler, who feels closest to Bill when she's saving him from impending disaster") that will be of use only as a "compendium of all the previous reporting on the Clintons' marriage" for "people who have been trapped in a mine for the last few years" (Gail Collins, the New York Times Book Review). The Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column has had a field day pointing out factual errors in the book over the past few weeks. Although Sheehy has a weakness for writing about "how our leaders feel, not what they stand for or what might become of them or even what we should think about the things they do," the book has one point in its favor: It has the irresistible pull of "good local gossip" (Judith Shulevitz, Slate). (Click here to read the first chapter and here to read the rest of Shulevitz's review in Slate.)

Death

Joseph Heller (1923-1999). The author of Catch-22 died of a heart attack Sunday. Best known for his absurdist treatment of World War II, Heller published six novels as well as plays, screenplays, and TV comedy. Although Catch-22 received mixed reviews when first published, it eventually sold more than 10 million copies in the United States and "enriched the American lexicon with its title slogan and its new definition of absurdity" (Elaine Woo, the Los Angeles Times). Heller's seventh novel, Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man, was completed just before his death and will be published next year. (Click here to visit the New York Times' special section on Heller, which includes the original reviews of his novels and plays, interviews, and other information on the author.)

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.