American Violet Reviews
The message here, while being a bit heavy handed, needs to be said, and the film does a very good job of delving into the consequences of a political system that simply bulldozes people for government funding, not caring what happens to those they trample.
There are some very touching scenes where Dee is jailed for 21 days for a crime she didn't commit; including a scene where she is allowed ten minutes to see her children - through a small grimy piece of glass that is stuck high up in a doorway. The will of this woman to perservere is astonishing, and the film does a nice job of showing you what would have happened if she had taken the offered plea bargain - a felony record that would prohibit her from receiving any kind of government assistance; from food stamps to housing - and, having a criminal record would severly hamper her attempts at finding a job, which of course could possibly lead to child protective services taking her children.
Dee has enough problems just getting on with life - trying to raise her children, with her children's deadbeat dad and his abusive girlfriend in the same building, and yet even after her conviction is overturned, her subsequent case (spearheaded by the A.C.L.U.) puts her in the D.A.'s crosshairs - who uses his substantial infuence to not only prevent her from returning to her job of 7 years, but even makes sure that she is terminated from the minimum wage job she finally manages to procure. All for a good arrest record, which not only serves to line the county coffers via federal funds, but keeps the D.A.'s "tough on crime" credo in the spotlight - and, ugliest of all, satisfies his predudice against people of color.
Still, Dee persists, and the D.A. is forced to make restitution to those wrongfully accused; but the bigger victory is that the law in which a person could be tried based on information provided by a single source,without corroborating evidence, was overturned.
This is a very forthright docu-drama, earnestly filmed, that includes an inspiring lead performance and some equally fine supporting performances by the likes of Alfre Woodard, Will Patten, Tim Blake Nelson, and Charles Dutton.
Based on a true story, "American Violet" should frighten anyone who genuinely fears the power the government can wield against its own citizens. Clearly told, the movie also asks questions about the criminal justice system and how the poor and minorities become trapped in it that somebody will have to answer one day, with a special focus on the war on drugs.(Remember, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.) My favorite scene is where David identifies himself as ACLU, while approaching Sam at a gun range. The movie is not without its share of faults, however, as it could have been better directed. It is also a little too neatly resolved(Damn you, Law and Order!), even if the story is still ongoing. Luckily, the movie is not that heavyhanded, as its sole Potemkin moment comes in an early sequence. And through Will Patton's bravura performance, Sam becomes as much a center of the story as Dee who has the most to lose and proves there is always something worth fighting for.
American Violet is a powerful movie. I think everyone should see it.