The Life of David Gale
A layer from Texas, called Duke Grover (Jim Beaver), requests that metropolitan journalist, Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet), plus her reluctant aide, Zack Stemmons (Gabriel Mann), travel to Death-Row, and interview the murderer, David Gale (Kevin Spacer), a couple of days before his execution.
You see, David was a college professor who has been found guilty of killing his Death-sentence activist ally, Constance Harraway (Laura Linney). And now – four day’s before he is meant to die – wants to tell Bitsey his side of the story. And he does this too, in two hour sessions spread over three days...
DAY ONE: David starts off his session with Bitsey by explaining to her some personal history. For example, the loving time that he spent with his son, Max. Then, his companionship with his co-professor, Constance, and how he tried to help her fight against the death penalty, by delving into a battle of words with the state governor, upon a live television show. And finally, David divulges a dubious episode that he had with a devilish female student, called Berlin.
Well, on two different occasions, Berlin temps David to sleep with her. At first, he refuses her proposal, because she is a student in his class. But subsequently, whist he is drunk at a party, and she has been kicked out of school, lust takes him over. Oops! The repercussion of this sordid endeavor leads him to be arrested for rape – although Berlin flees from her accusation straight away.
PLEASE NOTE: After this interview, Bitsey and Zack go to the house where Constance was killed, and notice that they have been shadowed by a mysterious truck-driver.
DAY TWO: Due to the rape allegations, David life takes a sudden turn for the worse. His wife and child leave him and go to Spain. His college sacks him from his job. And his house is sold from under his very nose.
Obviously, David feels very depressed about all of this sad stare of affairs, and he hits the bottle big time – wandering thought the street like a vagabond with no place to go. Thankfully, though, David’s lawyer pal, Duke, encourages him to ‘shape up’, or else he will loose all visitation rights to his son. And does this work? Er – for a short time it does away – and he only snaps out of is again, when he hears the news that Constance has Leukemia.
PLEASE NOTE: After this subsequent interview, Bitsey and Zack discover video-taped evidence in there hotel-room, showing Constance dieing of affixation. As soon as possible, they take this tape to the Duke, whilst they pay him the money for interviewing David. The Duke accepts the money, but dismisses the tape – because it cannot prove David’s innocence. Also, they notice that they are shadowed once again by the mysterious truck-driver
SESSION THREE: David’s final installment of his life, relates to his time with Constantine. In how she felt depressed from her condition and her wary cause. In how he tried to comfort her with a mutual night of passion. But ultimately, how he was arrested once her lifeless body was discovered in her house.
PLEASE PANIC: Bitsey and Zack now have 24 hours to prove David’s innocence before he dies from lethal injection. In a manic frenzy, they re-enact Constantans death in her old house. They discover the true identity of the mysterious truck-driver. And they also find another tape to prove how Constance was actually killed. However, this path of re-enactments, discoveries, and proof, all lead to two things – acceptance by Bitsey – and a message by David.
In my own personal opinion, 'The Life of David Gale' is a pertinent melodrama for our time. It tells of a parallel tale involving a lead up to a murder, as well as the mystery surrounding it. Ultimately, however, it is a message film in the same vein as 'Mississippi Burning' and 'Milk', in which the pretext is set with an agenda in mind -- ‘the death penalty is wrong’.
Now does ‘this message’ make you jump out of your sofa, run to your local town hall, and then picket the right to all human life? No – not really. But what it does do, is make you think about circumstance, and how an innocent man, or woman, can be put to death unjustly. OK, to balance out this argument, you can always quote the quaint proverb ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking a couple of eggs’. But what if you was the egg? Would you be fine about this then? No – I don’t think that you would.
Another thing that this film also does, is entertain. Kate – Kevin – Laura – Gabriel – and Jim – all really pull off their respective roles to the nth degree. Honestly, I though that I would be board seeing Kate cry again in another film, or seeing Kevin tell another duplicitous tale of times past. But no – not at all. Both of them really lend a pertinent gravitas to this film, that really draws you into its driving narrative.
In some way, we have seen ‘The Life of David Gale’ before, spread out through many other films. It’s just that director extraordinaire, Alan Parker, manages to amalgamate all these components together, and presents this sanguine story in a clear and understandable way. For example, at the end of the film – and once you see the twist – you don’t scratch your head and say “I never saw that happening?”. Instead, you sit back in your sofa, and say to yourself “Well I be damned! It was in front of me all along”.
Unlike these filmic fact: (1) Real death-penalty protesters briefly protested the protest scene, which was recorded at the Texas State capitol. (2) The casting of this movie had a bumbling false start. George Clooney and Nicolas Cage both rejected the part of David Gale, before Kevin Spacey accepted it. Plus Nicole Kidnam turned down the role of Bitsey too. (3) The scene where David is drunk on the street was improvised and shot ad hoc. "Most of the people are not extras" stated director, Alan Parker. (4) Alan's sons, Alexander and Jake Parker, composed the incidental film score for this flick. (5) The first diner scene hat to be shot twice, because during the initial shooting, Texas was hit by a tornado and they had to hide in the kitchen until it passed. And (6) Alan had a brief cameo in the party scene.
Hey! While I am in a bullet point type of a mood, lets have some facts about the death penalty as well, OK? (1) There is no evidence which states capital punishment deters crime, in fact, the opposite is true. (2) It has been proven after the event, that innocent people have actually been sentenced to die. (3) Race and status has been known to be a deciding factor to determine who lives and who dies. (4) On religious ground, 'The death penalty' is a sin. (5) Executions cost more to carry out than the cost of social reform. (6) This form of corporal punishment goes against the United Nations human rights policy. (7) Politics and legislation are two random factors that are applied to the death penalty, to curry favor with the masses. And (8) Ill equipped lawyers are a prime source of leading someone to death-row, for obvious reasons.
Alright, that enough of that, huh? I am sure that you can probably guess which side of the argument I fall on, and that is why I feel that 'The Life of David Gale' is a must see movie. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes compelling melodramas, understated mysteries, and films that make you sit back and think. A true classic. Right, Kevin?
THE RATING: A