Movie Review: Winnie Mandela

Winnie STARRING: Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard, Elias Koteas, Wendy Crewson

WRITTEN BY: Andre Piertese

DIRECTING BY: Darrell Root

First of all, I have no idea who TD Jakes is, or why he gets to put his name above the title. Apparently, he produces a lot of black movies, most are christian themed. Winnie Mandela should have been able to live off of the names of the top 2 stars. I always get nervous when I don’t hate a film that has less than 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. I had this problem earlier this year when I actually enjoyed The Host. I also find myself in the same predicament when I dislike a film that has over 80%. I was baffled at how everyone loved Life Of Pi, and Spring Breakers made me want to throw babies under buses just so they wouldn’t have to one day sit through it. At least with Winnie Mandela, I can say that the film itself is flawed, but it is led by two rather great performances.

The movie follows the story of Winnie Mandela (Hudson) from birth to her meeting her future husband Nelson (Howard). We get to see a bit of Nelson’s fight for equality in South Africa, and Winnie’s evolution into the Mother of Africa. Nelson is imprisoned. Winnie is imprisoned. Winnie gets out, and continues her husbands fight for equality. She essentially starts a gang that protects her. It’s all about the decisions that people are forced to make when their backs are against a wall. Winnie’s back is against the wall for most of the movie.

Jennifer Hudson gives a dynamic performance as Winnie, easily her best since debuting with Dreamgirls. Her moments while being imprisoned should have launched her into the Oscar race, but instead she’s hampered by a film that is directed by a clearly inexperienced Darrell Roodt. He was not the right director for this film, and directs it like a mediocre TV film. The script is pretty solid, and it encompasses  a wide story of Winnie. In one scene, Winnie makes the decision to kill a young boy she is told is a traitor to her cause. This allows Nelson to return to the film as the moral core. I don’t know if the film was made because someone loves Winnie, or someone loves Nelson more.

Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela loses out to those who have come before him, namely Morgan Freeman. But he does a good job anyway, but it would be hard to rally any support for his performance as it never reaches the heights of previous Mandela efforts. Also, what is UP with the COSTUMING BUDGET. Jennifer Hudson looks gorgeous in every scene, and it borders on distracting. She’s like a South African Jackie Kennedy, but she’s always wearing a new flashy dress, like she only wears each outfit once.

The film itself is OK, but Hudson’s performance rises above.

FINAL GRADE: C+

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