It’s about screaming and loud yelling. Not to be left out, even Craig gets a screaming scene.
Its 1992 and Millie (Halle Berry) has a brood of eight foster children. They all live in a house run without much adult supervision. On this row-house street, right next to Millie’s house is, improbably placed, an apartment building. Millie’s neighbor is a writer-in-the-nude, Obie Hardison (Daniel Craig). With such a large group of kids, the noise level is always high and Obie shouts to Millie about it. Can’t she keep her kids quiet?
Millie’s eldest foster kid is Jesse Cooper (Lamar Johnson). A sincere, responsible kid, he helps out with the younger children.
Obie is also prone to screaming outbursts of irrational behavior. For some reason not made clear, he throws his sofa over his small balcony and then his dishwasher. So he’s a violent drunk.
The Rodney King trial – in which four white police officers are on trial for the beating of a black motorist – is ongoing and the news is filled with all the details. The community is getting excitable as a verdict draws near. The news outlets are preparing for the media-event – the riots and the louting. Which means everyone in the community has a free pass to run into supermarkets and other stores and take what they want.
When her youngest foster child is returned to his fresh out-of-prison parent, Millie weeps. Seeing police grabbing teenager William (Kaalan “KR” Walker), Millie takes responsibility for him and brings him home. Millie needs to keep 8 foster children or there must be paperwork and visits by child services.
Millie supplements the family’s finances by baking cakes but her children often go hungry. With foster care payments for eight children and food stamps available, why would three of Millie’s younger children go with William and steal food at a supermarket? What is Millie teaching these kids? Why didn’t Millie throw William out when she got home and saw a kitchen filled with junk food?
William is going to be a problem.
Millie might show each child love and attention and frolic with them in a tiny kids plastic wading pool, but she is not a disciplinarian and sets no moral guideposts.
Casting a quick glance of nude Obie, Millie has an erotic dream about having sex with him.
I’m thinking this scene was intentionally written as an enticement for Craig to take the part. The scene does not belong in the movie and it screams – Craig wanted a sex scene with Berry. Millie’s entire being has been focused only on her misbehaving children. Men seem to be the last thing on her mind. However, when she takes a look at nude Obie, she has a very satisfying dream about him. Given how sexy Millie is and the way she saunters down those South Central streets like a movie star, you wonder why no men are howling outside her windows.
Millie is a passionate woman. We can’t have Halle Berry in a movie and not show how sexy she is.
As the Rodney King verdict looms over the community, Millie’s kids go missing. They do not listen to her. Usually, people with a lot of children know how to handle the chaos. Millie goes with the flow. Millie spends a lot of time screaming and running around looking for her kids.
It would be interesting to see the 1992 riots from a foreigner’s perspective, but French-based Turkish writer-director Deniz Gamze Erguven does not have a strong point-of-view. Using archival footage of the riots, the King beating, the corrupt cops, and the riots, one would assume Erguven is sympathetic, but then her story veers in the opposite direction.
The looting and destruction is shown, and Millie finds her youngest children stealing things – again. When Millie and Obie are chained to a pole its not to show the cop’s over-the-top rant but written to give Millie and Obie some sexy time together. Yet, when Millie tells her kid to stay in the car, he ignores her and does as he pleases. He doesn’t even consider helping.
The sweet, responsible Jessie gets entangles with a girl that goes off with William and the outcome is shocking. Jessie is not who we thought he was.
The characters are woefully underwritten. Is Millie a selfless caregiver to children? Why is she allowing the kids to “raise themselves”? The character of Obie must be a seven-day paycheck. He goes from being a nude, alcoholic failed writer without any patience for children, to a loving, devoted and engaged caregiver to Millie’s children. What happened? What is he doing in an apartment in South Central? Would Obie be an ideal mate for Millie? Could Halle Berry be in a movie without any male lusting for her?
Erguven should not have compromised to accommodate movie stars Berry and Craig. If Erguven had written about a true foster family, she would have made a more authentic film.