DVD Review: Disgrace (2008)

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Disgrace is not a movie that ends when the final credits roll and it stays with you longer than the after-movie coffee and conversation. It's there when you get up the next day, when you're driving in your car, and when you're walking into your next meeting.

I once met a guy who said that he personally believed you could tell a good movie from a bad one simply based on how long afterward you spend thinking about it. For me, with Disgrace, it's been a few weeks which by my friend's rationale should make it one of the year's best films and it turns out he's right as Disgrace made it onto the Top 10 list and favorite films summaries of some of our nation's most important critics.

The deceptive thing about Disgrace is just how straightforward it is. It's not an approachable movie by a long shot; it takes you places you're not sure you want to go and makes you confront ideas and have thoughts you may not be up to processing.

Yet there's a beautiful simplicity in the bare, precise prose of screenwriter Anna-Maria Monticelli's adaptation of Nobel Prize Laurette author J.M. Coetzee's Booker award-winning novel. Monticelli doesn't offer pat resolutions or filler speeches to tell you why our character moves from one place to another emotionally or physically and why certain plot points and thematic overlaps are so important.

Intelligent, provocative, challenging and powerfully crafted by director Steve Jacobs and boasting one of John Malkovich's strongest roles in years, Disgrace is set in the still racially sensitive post-apartheid landscape of South Africa.

As the film begins, Malkovich's romantic poetry professor with a penchant for Byron – David Lurie – moves from his weekly hooker appointment where he moans that his students see right through him when he lectures to gaining the full attention of a beautiful college student he seduces, despite the fact that she still seems to stare off into space after their first meeting.

Being forced to resign his post in Cape Town, he goes to visit his recently single lesbian daughter Lucy at her farm in the country where the idyllic landscape of sun and sand reveals instead an unforgiving landscape and threat of horrific violence that strikes right at the heart of David and Lucy's lives.

A gripping film that thankfully handles the confrontational scene with tact in showing us events from David's point-of-view and not dwelling too much on exploitative violence for violence sake, Disgrace is that curious type of movie that begins as an ode to another tale of a white guy in mid-life crisis mode and then becomes an entirely different film altogether that uses him as a vehicle to explore the many facets of human behavior from prejudice to love.

Crisply transferred to disc complete with behind-the-scenes featurettes and cast interviews, the highly recommended Disgrace may strike at the most disgraceful aspects of our nature as a species in this most gripping and unexpected release but it also encourages the best in us as it makes us confront issues and consider what we have seen repeatedly after we hit eject.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.