Considering the cast, anyone looking forward to The Funeral , which starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, can’t be blamed.
Two Academy Award winners – Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones – star in this drama from director Maggie Bates, who co-wrote the screenplay with Doug Wright and Jonathan Hare the play.
However, the film’s uneven tone dampens enthusiasm for the story of attorney Willie Gary and the case that catapulted him to legal stardom.
Based on a true story, Gary is the perfect role to let Fosse’s skills run free. He is arrogant, arrogant, aggressive, and very smart. He also doesn’t like failure.
Gary is drawn into the case of Mississippi funeral home owner Jeremiah O’Keefe (Jones), who is on the verge of losing his family’s generational business. Death and its attendant businesses have not been kind to O’Keefe.
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He takes the advice of family friend and personal attorney Mike Allred (Cleveland’s Alan Rooker) and agrees to sell part of the business to a Canadian company. They clearly realized the opportunity was at hand, knew O’Keefe was in financial trouble, and took their time closing the deal, leaving him slowly bleeding financially.
He recognized this fact and took legal action on Allred’s advice. O’Keefe just wants his word, but Allred’s laid-back, polished lawyering style isn’t necessarily the right fit for the moment.
On the advice of up-and-coming lawyer Hal Dawkins (Mamoudou Ati), he finds Gary, an imposing lawyer with an impressive record of winning cases in court.
Their awkward partnership has some conflict at the outset, considering Allred is from the Deep South and Gary is black. This conflict only intensifies as the case progresses, and it’s not just business dealings that go wrong.
Bates and her co-writers try to slowly build their story into a grand revelation, almost looking for cliche courtroom payback. When it arrives, not surprisingly, it feels a bit anti-climactic.
The film wants to deal with the issue of racial exploitation without actually discussing the issue directly. When trying to tell the story of the apparent law and its underlying bigotry and exposure of wider exploitation, it falls short.
What’s great about it: the cast.
Although Foxx is clearly restrained by the role, his enthusiasm is still exposed. The ever-subtle Jones seems to be having his most fun time on screen in years.
“Funeral” is only playing in a handful of theaters across the country, but it’s not worth the price of admission. However, watching it at home in your living room can be a different story.
George M. Thomas has branched out into film and television for The Beacon Magazine.
Starring: Jamie Foxx/ Tommy Lee Jones/ Alan Rooker/ Mamoudou Assi
Director: Maggie Bates
Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Rating: R language