Hello. My name is Megan. And I didn't love Selma.
Just like when Elaine Benes dreaded talking to Peterman about her hatred for The English Patient on "Seinfeld," I have dreaded addressing the fact that I didn't love Ava DuVernay's MLK biopic (although I don't have any disdain for it like Elaine did Anthony Minghella's epic---I reserve that for movies like Interstellar).
And it has nothing to do with the supposed historical inaccuries. It has nothing to do with me being a racist or something (I'm not!). I just. . .didn't like the movie as a movie. To me, the story is just stronger than the film.
Yet, I feel like this is something I can't speak out about without receiving scorn similar to what Elaine Benes was subjected to.
Let's start with what I did like. The performances. David Oyelowo is great and masterful in his role. And strangely enough, I think he gets upstaged by Carmen Ejogo, who is heartbreaking as Coretta Scott King. The ensemble is wonderful.
But the storytelling wasn't always cohesive. Viewers are introduced briefly to Malcolm X and then he becomes a footnote when King addresses his death in a speech. Upon viewing, I recall thinking I had missed a scene, that I had fallen asleep.
To me, some scenes go on a little too long, and the pacing of the entire film seems to rise and fall, speed up and slow down abruptly. Instead of following a linear story, I often felt like I was hanging on for dear life, trying to figure out what was going on (which is perhaps an appropriate device, since that's probably what the situation was like at the time).
One thing that was also distracting: Oprah and politically-charged Hollywood actors like Martin Sheen. This took me out of the situation and reminded me that Oprah was a producer and that this was a Hollywood movie. Some might say this movie wouldn't have been made without Oprah, which may be true. But does she have to have a role in it? Her face is pretty recognizable. Why not give it to another underrated black actress in Hollywood? Lord knows there are enough of them, unfortunately, who haven't received their due.
The movie is not without its powerful scenes. The final scene of thousands and thousands of people, black and white, walking together is impressive, and the glimpse below the bridge of citizens marching is something I'll remember about this film. But would it have been more impactful if DuVernay could have used lines from his actual speeches and historical footage? The director's hands were tied. In King's speech scenes in the film, lines had to be paraphrased because Dreamworks owns them and the King family adheres to strict copyright guidelines.
I don't mean to badmouth this film. Again, I reserve that for Interstellar (which ironically Paramount pushed as its Oscar horse instead of Selma), but I do want to remind people that it's OK not to like a movie that everyone thinks you should like. You have the freedom of choice. And on a much much MUCH smaller scale of silly movie-making and opinions, I think MLK would agree.