5/10 Due to the nomination for Best Actress for leading performer Andra Day, I thought I’d give this movie an examination. Upon its completion, it is a fairly by the numbers biopic, but with a truly incredible leading performance and strong production values. Musical biopics are a dime a dozen and it is the movie’s script that follows the formulaic pattern that many before this movie have laid out. All of the same clichés are there, even if they truly happened. A rough upbringing, drug abuse, divorce, falling on hard times, etc. When “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” spoofed this stuff back in 2007 following a string of musical biopics like “Walk the Line” and “Ray”, I figured we would get a break from these same, old stories but with a different musician or band. Yet we get more of the same here with some unfocused, all over the map direction from Lee Daniels. Some of that direction is well done but there is no consistency to it as it changes styles, jumps into a semi-dream sequence and never stops jumping around. Even the jumps in time become hard to follow as to what time period we are in. The muddled direction and by the numbers script bring the movie down considerably. At the end of the movie we are given some information on screen but it concludes with, “In February 2020, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was considered by the Senate. It has yet to pass.” While this is true, it is also misleading. This almost makes it sound as if lynching is legal or some minor offense so we therefore need to pass new legislation to stop it or give a harsher punishment. In reality, lynching, which is murder, has been illegal since 1790 and although many murderers were not convicted hundreds of years ago due to racism at the time, this is completely different today as Americans are not going around lynching anyone and then getting off with a slap on the wrist. So to act like we need this act passed is simply virtue signaling and those who voted against it did so because we already have laws on the books against it, so a new act would be redundant and unnecessary. Finally, while Harry Anslinger was definitely not a good man, the script’s portrayal of him is so one note and devoid of personality that it feels like a cheesy villain. As for what worked, the biggest strength is Andra Day and her powerhouse performance that rightfully earned her her Best Actress nomination. Billie Holiday had an extremely tragic life filled with a terrible upbringing, racism, government harassment, etc. and used sex and substance abuse to cope with it all. Day completely transforms into Holiday with her look, mannerisms, voice, etc. It took quite a toll on Day and you can see why if you watch the movie. Besides the great acting, the production design, costume design, sets, props, hair & make-up, etc. expertly recreate the time period. Despite being over two hours long, the pacing works very well and nothing is rushed. The cinematography was also well done and the movie does educate on Holiday’s life, which was an important one, especially culturally. At the end of the (holi)day, this is a very standard biopic that doesn’t provide much new but at least the production elements are extremely well done and Andra Day is an absolute powerhouse to keep an eye on going forward. I wouldn’t be upset at all if she won Best Actress, despite her not being predicted to.

#HoliAndraDay / #TheStrangeFruitOfHerLabor / #IllGetHigh / #LoverMen / #BlueMoonlight / #FreeBillie

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