Film Forum: Playing the South Right

This is an ongoing discussion between friends about the best in motion pictures.

With the exception of Frank, none of us knows what we’re talking about.

That’s never stopped us before.

This week’s question: What movie gives the most accurate portrayal of southern life?

Shane Burchfiel: The Agrarian

Sling Blade. This one is the exception because it nails southern folks and southern living to a T. Any southerner who would say this movie mocks southern people is in denial. I can in some way relate to every character, and for good or ill, this movie sheds light on stereotypes of the south. Anybody from the south either is, knows, or is related to someone from this movie. Probably go to church with ’em. I think southerners should embrace this biscuit & taters movie as a piece of masterful southern storytelling.

Jay Sanders: The Right Rev

Convenience stores with funny names?  Yes.

Grown men named Scooter?  Yes.

Legit accents?  Yes.

Guys that just got released from the State Nervous Hospital living out behind lawn mower repair shops?  You bet.

Sling Blade has it all.

Frank Glidden: The Actor

This is a tough one. It took me a while to think of one. The only one I could come up with is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sure it’s a movie about a murder, but Kevin Spacey played that killer, Jim Williams, with such true southern charm, you just had to like the guy. I was just in Savannah two weeks ago, and that southern charm is there in the majority of the locals. I feel this did justice to southern living.

Jeff Merrill: The Musician

I’ll go with A Time to Kill.  As much as I am not a fan of Matthew McSnickerdoodle or whatever his name is, the film had some good southern characters.

Kevin Lester: The Webmaster for Mayberry PD

Days of Thunder

I know, I know, this movie is cheesy and should fall into Channel
Stopper category but it is a great example of a Southern movie.

1) It has Robert Duvall.  I’m not sure how a guy born in San Diego can
play such a convincing Southerner but this guy pulls it off.  Even in
the Godfather I thought this guy was from the south side.  I will go
out on a limb here and call Robert Duvall the greatest southern actor
since John Wilkes Booth.  Too soon?  I don’t care.

2) It has an uppidy non-southerner who thinks he knows it all but is
proven wrong.  Tom Cruise is very good in this type of roll.

3) NASCAR.  See previous sentence.

4) People drinking moonshine from mason jars.  Anything from a mason
jar is better.

5) Rowdy is the best example of a true southerner with money.  You buy
a big piece of land you can hunt and fish on and put a house right in
the middle of it.

Marty Duren: The Social Media Strategist

I don’t count Missouri as the South, but some people do, and the context is the same as much of the very deep, rural South. For that reason, I’d say, “Winter’s Bone.” It treats the rural life with respect, even when telling the story of a missing meth cooker. It recognizes the nuances and strangeness of family-clan dynamics to the point of resembling an Ozark version of the Corleone family. It’s currently my favorite movie.

Casey Harpe: The Newlywed

Huge pet peeve. I know I have a bunch of pet peeves but this is up
high on the list.  Hollywood obviously hates all things in these 4
categories: conservative, “Christian,” traditional, and things they
don’t understand. Nothing fits all these categories quite like the
South.

To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind but it’s been so long since I’ve
seen that, I might need to watch it again to check.

The Apostle is the obvious choice. The Southerners in it are real
Southerners, the people are just like everybody I knew growing up.
Robert Duvall is in it. If Robert Duvall is in your movie, it
automatically moves up several notches in authenticity…whatever the
setting/story/plot/etc.

Of course “Sling Blade” in all its glory represents the South and
Southerners very well…especially with all the supporting actors.
Also, see paragraph above re: Robert Duvall.

Another one of my all-time favorites is “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It’s
set in a part of Kentucky that’s not Louisville so it’s very accurate
concerning Southern and country people. Sissy Spacek does a better
Loretta Lynn than Loretta Lynn does. Valerie and I watched this movie
a while back and I had to translate a lot of things they said so she
could understand them. That’s a sign of someone who’s made a movie and
has really done the work necessary to be accurate about everything.
The director of that movie is Southern but not the kind you’re
thinking…he’s from southern England. In an interview about the film,
he said he really tried to capture how people really are in the South
without appearing to poke fun at us. He is the exception to the rule
though. It seems Hollywood loves to brag about how well they research
things before making a movie but for some reason, most don’t deem it
necessary to research the South. They take Rhett Butler, add a little
Larry the Cable Guy and they assume they’ve completely captured and
are fairly representing all things Southern.