‘Free State of Jones’ is an Oppressively Awful Regime

GameStop, Inc.

free-state-of-jones-0001

America’s history of white supremacism is a stain on our nation’s legacy. It’s an ugly topic to contextualize, and American society is still trying to grapple with the demons of the past as we’re constantly reminded that they’ve never really gone away, only gotten better at hiding. We can always look to history to try and inform the present or find an inspirational figure to remind us that not everything and everyone in the nation’s complex history was complicit in the darkest chapters. The new movie starring Matthew McConaughey, Free State of Jones, is so invested in trying to build the legend of an overlooked historical figure that took a stand for a just cause that it entirely forgets to be a movie at all. Intended to be a historical epic, Free State of Jones is an overwrought, overlong exercise in boredom and inept storytelling.

Director Gary Ross’ film takes place over the span of 14 years (from 1862-76) with bewildering cutaways to a trial in 1948. In 1862, Newton Knight (McConaughey) is fighting for the Confederate Army in the Civil War. When a young family member is killed on the front lines, Newton deserts the war and returns to his home in Jones County, Mississippi. Being a deserter puts a death sentence on Newton’s head, so he hides with his wife Serena (Keri Russell). As the Confederates seize the property of their constituents to aid the war effort, Newton helps the common folk retain their property. After taking refuge in the nearby swamp with a number of slaves in hiding, Newton Knight builds a community of Confederate deserters and freed slaves. With the infamy becoming too much, Serena leaves their home. Over the years, Newton and his band of outcasts strike at the heart of the Confederacy with the naïve hope for a better America for all.

The baffling cutaways to 1948 are to a trial for Newton’s great-grandson Davis (Brian Lee Franklin) for an unlawful interracial marriage because he his descendant of the child that Newton had with the freed slave Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who became his common law wife after the departure of his first wife. This is all intended to set up some sort of parallel between the two, presenting the descendant as paying the price for the deeds of his great-grandfather. But Free State of Jones is such a clumsily constructed film that these time hops are confusing and only bloat the film’s already lengthy running time.

From start to finish, Free State of Jones is a movie that’s always trying to bite off more than it can chew. Any number of the film’s key plot elements could’ve made adequate movies on their own, but Gary Ross’ script (from a story by Leonard Hartman) crams a fraction of each into this uninteresting hodgepodge of history. For example, the story of Moses (Mahershala Ali), an escaped slave who befriend Newton, carries a much more interesting character arc than the film’s lead. Just the horrific experiences of this character and his grisly fate would’ve made a leaner, more thematically compelling movie instead of operating as a subplot in a bloated mess. There’s an assorted variety of subplots and supporting characters that are equally ineffective and obscured.

Everything about Free State of Jones feels like it was a TV miniseries trimmed down to the running time of an overlong movie. Visually it has the panache of a made-for-TV movie, most of the shots seemingly composed for home viewing. The movie also has a very episodic approach which always works to its detriment. It’s hard to say that this movie has a beginning, middle, and end as much as it simply assembled of middle segments punctuated with some title cards and closing credits. Free State of Jones really tries to tell an expansive story of the consequences of one man’s fight against America’s history of white supremacy, yet lacks the skills behind the camera to make any of its grand ambition connect to the audience. Like our egregiously long and absurd election cycle, it’s more like to inspire apathy than fiery passion.

Against my own self-interest, I resisted the urges to walk out of Free State of Jones. “Life’s too short for this,” kept circling my mind as the story dragged on and on with no end (or beginning) in sight. A potentially robust political allegory is lost in an incompetently constructed narrative. Free State of Jones is an oppressive regime, one of the most punishing cinematic experiences of the year.

Free State of Jones
  • Overall Score
1

Summary

An overwrought and overlong epic of boredom, Free State of Jones wastes a decent performance from Matthew McConaughey in what plays out like a TV miniseries edited down to a movie.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Skywalkers’ Takes Love to New Heights on Netflix – Spoiler Free Review

‘Skywalkers: A Love Story‘ Takes Love to New Heights while Scaling...

‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three’ – Leaves us Wanting More! – Spoiler Free Review

‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three‘ is a...

‘Lumina’ is a Incredible First for Debuting Director, Gino McKoy – Review

‘Lumina‘ is an incredible concept and an exceptional first run for...

Event News Event Reviews
The ‘California Dreams’ Band Reunite on The Sunset Strip For a Night of 90s Nostalgia – Concert Review

Don’t Wake Me Up if I’m Dreaming, The ‘California Dreams‘ Band...

Jay Anthony Franke Talks California Dreams Reunion Concert in LA – Interview

Jay Anthony Franke Talks About The ‘California Dreams‘ Reunion Concert in...

‘An Inspector Calls’ Challenges the Morals of the Bourgeois – Review

‘An Inspector Calls‘ Challenges the Morals and Ethics of the Bourgeois...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Derek Gumin Talks Planet 13 and UFC 303 Meet and Greets – Interview

Director of Wholesale Accounts at Planet 13, Derek Gumin spoke about...

Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the Cactus, nearing the end of the 3rd act.

What IS that big dust cloud on the horizon?

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the Cactus, Endgame

Mhuhahahahahahahah!

Fantoy Comics Presents: A 4th of July Message!

Seriously, America, THIS crap?!?!?

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Billy Eddy Talks His new Book ‘Our New World of Adult Bullies’ – Interview

Lawyer, Mediator and Personality Expert Bill Eddy Provides a Six-Step Strategy...

Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...