Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Veronica Robledo
Screenwriter: Veronica Robledo adapted from Deborah Robillard’s novel
Cast: Angie Lawrence, Maurice Johnson, David Kincaid, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Bill Oberst Jr., William Mark McCullough
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/11/21
Opens: October 29, 2021

If were to make an informercial running for an hour and a half instead of a minute or two sandwiched among brief commercials, it could simply buy the rights to “The Crickets Dance” and show the film, maybe late on a Saturday night. Without even mentioning the name of the movie directed by Veronica Robledo or the book by Deborah Robillard, the company would make quite clear to a potential base that your life can change if only you knew more about your great-grandparents, going as far back as at least 1847. A knowledge of ancestry does impact the lives or the two people who are present-day lawyers in Savannah, Georgia, who might have never been more than colleagues in a law firm, sharing the same office, rather than people who get to know each other and share what they hope would be the rest of their lives together.

The whole business starts with a less expensive purchase. After Angie Lawrence (Kristen Renton) inherits an antebellum estate in Savannah, Georgia from her aunt and best friend Claudia Wainwright (Sandra Ellis Lafferty), she discovers a diary in the attic that is 150 years old. Since the contents of the house belong to another niece of the deceased, Angie buys the book for ten dollars from the philistine who thinks she got a good deal for a dust-collecting volume. Since the diary deals with events that had taken place in from 1847 to 1863, Angie, who at one point had a typical southerner’s negative view of African-Americans, reads about the brutalities inflicted on field hands by Jackson McGrath (William Mark McCullough) and his overseer David Kincaid (Bill Oberst Jr.). What’s more, the vicious Jackson inflicted physical harm against his wife, who though white appears to have been sold (in a way) to the man. The actions described in the diary neatly transcribed into film, a film though in some parts saccharine, particularly the growing intimacy between Angie and Andrew Ruben McGrath (Maurice Johnson), the Black man with whom she shares office space. (Aside: Maurice Johnson is so muscular, he could probably take on Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime and John Cena. Together.)

Toggling from present-day Savannah to some of the bad old days of the 19th century, Veronica Robledo, in her debut in the director’s chair, is obviously determined to focus on the lives of women, whether inhabiting possessions of power like her young lawyer Angie or like Emmaline McGrath (KateLynn E. Newberry), who has to take a lot of crap from her evil husband Jackson McGrath (William Mark McCullough). She finally triumphs against the louse and against the vicious overseer who acts like his satanic doppelgänger. At the same time, she has a view of Ophelia McGrath (Jamie Butler), who though a slave without power, bravely takes the place of a male she loves, allowing herself to be whipped instead of him.

When Angie discovers that her lawyer colleague Andrew is a descendant of the mansion, her happy coincidence exploits the saying that every human being is no more than six degrees of separation from every other human being. Their common link will result in their repeating, more or less, the romantic actions of their ancestors, history proving itself once again.

Donald Trump, after criticizing the Academy for giving a Korean drama Best Picture (figures), he implied that his favorite movie is “Gone with the Wind,” filled with singing and dancing and happy enslaved people. While GWTW is considered a classic, its actions are no closer to the truth of what transpired on southern plantations than Trump is close to the truth on anything he says. He would hate “The Crickets Dance,” given its condemnation of white slaveowners, which is why you will probably like the movie. It presents a South that has reparations to make, but one that hones in on a wedding of a Black man and a white woman with audience of guests who smile and applaud their union. “The Crickets Dance” gives us hope.

92 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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