Oct. 03, 2012 - Issue #885: Fall Style 2012
The first half of the film, while mostly historically accurate, plays up a great deal of Nelson's (Terrance Howard) rise to the forefront of the revolution without developing Winnie's (Jennifer Hudson) story as much as it should have for a film based around her. The pair meet in Johannesburg while Winnie is attending school to become the country's first black social worker, and after resisting his early advances, Winnie begins to fall for Nelson. Hudson portrays Winnie at this point in her life with an air of independence and ambition, while Howard captures the drive of Nelson's political efforts despite coming off as a bit of a playboy in others.
The couple doesn't get to enjoy their romance for long, as government officials stand watch during their wedding ceremony and burst in to arrest Nelson not long after the wedding takes place. Conditions worsen for her husband, and Winnie begins to rise as the "Mother of a Nation," continuing her husband's fight even after he is sentenced to life in prison. Hudson delivers a commendable performance during her character's strong moments just as effectively as she does during Winnie's 18-month stint in solitary confinement, where she has nothing but the ants in her cell to talk to as the poorly acted guards attempt to crack her.
Winnie becomes an internationally recognized figure, and gains tremendous support as she fights for racial equality, but falls from grace when a young activist in her care—part of the Mandela United Football Club, who are essentially a lynch mob—is accused of being a traitor and beaten to death. Her role in the case feels glossed over in the film, despite her actually serving jail time for the incident.
Howard's portrayal of Nelson is strong at times, but uneven. As he ages, a poor makeup job that tends to give him a rubbery appearance doesn't help make him be any more convincing.
It's a well-produced piece when it comes to nailing the look and feel of different decades, and while the story itself does shine during particular moments, such as when Winnie begins to take control and Hudson embodies her strong, ambitious character, but the film fails to dig a little deeper than the historical surface to give a more multi-dimensional account of who Winnie really is.
Opens Opens Friday
Directed by: Darrell James Roodt
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