Film / Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Savannah, Georgia, is an interesting city and the citizens are the most interesting part. A reporter who had been hired to cover a socialite's Christmas party decided to remain there instead of heading home to New York City and began to write a book based in the city. That reporter was John Berendt, and his book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, was adapted into a 1997 film, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Lady Chablis, and Jude Law.

The story takes place in The '80s. The Christmas party, hosted by Jim Williams (Spacey), is a gathering of the local who's who of Savannah. Williams has a glorious Southern-style mansion covered in antiques from the world over. However, after the party is over, Williams kills one of his relatives, and is arrested and brought to trial. Some citizens related to him are then investigated by the journalist John Kelso (Cusack), a guest at Williams' party, in order to help in his defense.

The film has examples of:

  • Autobiographical Role: Lady Chablis plays herself, however her name is not actually Frank, it's Benjamin.
    • Many of the extras and background characters were played by their real-life counterparts. Most of them had few problems with the film (and book).
  • Asshole Victim: Billy Hanlon gives John the stinkeye when he's looking around town and then threatens Jim and John both with a broken bottle after Jim won't give him $20 for booze.
  • Big Fancy House: Jim's is apparently takes up an entire block and he does not spare any expense on the interior either.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jim is acquitted but dies soon after, with John expressing doubts that Jim wasn't fully innocent. However, John realizes he's fallen in love with both a local girl and with the city of Savannah itself, and opts to stay with the cast of colorful eccentrics.
  • Black Best Friend: Lady Chablis is a very odd one for John.
  • Blind Seer: Minerva plays the part for this trope but does not appear to actually be blind, but does almost always wear large opaque sunglasses.
  • Book-Ends: A focus on the statue and then Minerva talking to a squirrel help frame the opening and closing of the film.
  • Bury Your Gays: Billy and Jim by the end of the film are dead and buried.
    • Lady Chablis, on the other hand, is very much alive and kicking throughout the novel and film.note 
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Luther Driggers, as he carries enough poison to kill the entire town and threatens to use it when his lunch isn't very good, every day, for ten years. Oh and he also attaches horse flies to himself with string.
  • Coup de Grâce: One of the central questions of the trial is whether Jim fought back in self-defense or whether he executed his victim. Near the end, Jim admits to John, it was a little of both.
  • Drag Queen: Lady Chablis, playing herself.
  • Drink Order: Billy loved his Wild Turkey.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Good Ol' Boy: Many different flavors are sampled, the most classic example of the trope being Jim's lawyer Sonny.
  • Hide Your Gays: Jim is not fond of the idea of testifying in open court about his gay relationship because his mom would be sitting in the courtroom. She is asked to sit outside instead.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Averted as the voodoo-practicing Minerva has no spells, carries no voodoo dolls and doesn't battle with Baron Samedi. That doesn't however stop her from being a hauntingly creepy character.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: A journalist main character, natch.
  • Pun: Kelso is interviewing a local regarding the murder charge against Jim. The lady remarks that he chose a rather "unconventional way to exit the closet."
    Kelso: With a bang.
    Lady: (laughs) Literally!
  • Real Person Cameo: The Judge is played by Sonny Seiler, the attorney for Jim Williams during the trials.
    • Also a Real Dog Cameo, the bulldog, was Georgia state's actual mascot at the time, Uga. (Though this was actually Uga V, son of Uga IV whom is portrayed.)
  • Reckless Gun Usage: The old lady who turns up at the Christmas party and then starts waving around a loaded revolver, pointing it at people, etc. Lampshaded by Williams and Kelso when they leave to try and find a conversation, in Kelso's words, "less likely to involve gunfire."
  • Pimped-Out Dress: From the Christmas party to Lady Chablis to the Alpha Phi Beta party to the Married Ladies Card Club, this trope is all over this movie.
  • Shrine to Self: One patrician widow, in the words of Jim at the Christmas party, "Made her boudoir a shrine to herself."
  • Sweet Home Alabama: While painted as eccentric, the Savannah residents are a very happy-go-lucky bunch and never genuinely creepy.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: as well as a based on a very popular non-fiction book.
    • Many of the Savannah residents were comfortable with how they were portrayed in the book and film, except for the chemist who was depicted as Luther Driggers (a composite character) in the film. He never really carried around a vial of poison (he merely said often that he could).