The Painting

Interracial romance goes through the wringer in The Painting, a movie with the best of intentions but hopelessly naive in its execution. Due to directors Peter Manoogian (The Midas Touch, Demonic Toys), Josh Rose, and screenwriter J. Marina Muhfriedel's constant desire to try to shove history down the throats of the viewer by referencing as many actual events as possible, The Painting feels like a bad extended version of American Dreams. The bulk of the film is set against the Civil Rights movement, a time in which a black woman dating a white man was strictly taboo.

And it's worse when the two come from different social strati. Randy Barrington IV (Heath Freeman) is in love with Hallie Gilmore (Stacey Dash, View From the Top, Gang of Roses). Barrington is the son of Barrington III (Charles Shaughnessy, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Second Chances), a wealthy Southern millionaire. Gilmore is the niece of Thomas Ayers (Clifton Davis, Max Keeble's Big Move, Kingdom Come), the butler/servant/houseman of the Barrington household. Both Barringtons have a lot of respect for Thomas, who is like one of the family. He taught Randy to be open to all races, and to be extremely progressive in a time when it was not the primary way of thinking.

Every intention behind The Painting is good, and Davis, Ben Vereen (I'll Take You There, Why Do Fools Fall in Love), and Debbie Allen (All About You, The Old Settler) are all phenomenal actors, but everybody is trapped in a syrupy mass of badly written melodrama. Randy and Hallie meet as children, and nobody likes the fact that the two are good friends. Well, it continues to the point of love, and as Randy is preparing to go to West Point, they are ready to elope. Randy's dad is vehemently against the two. The only person who seems to agree is Thomas.

The Painting moves forward as Randy's views cause him to quit West Point, begin a frowned upon interracial marriage with Hailey, testy encounters with black militants, and a trip as an enlisted man to Vietnam. To keep current events in check, Manoogian and Rose often reference historical events like the "I Have a Dream" speech and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, these do not flow well with the story, and feel very arbitrary, like attempts to be relevant.

The worst acting comes from Freeman and Shaughnessy, which is unfortunate, because the heart of the movie is the father/son relationship. Freeman simply looks to modern for the part. His mannerisms, and especially his hair, cause him to look like he stepped right out of a WB series. Shaughnessy emotes far too much, especially in the final act of the film when the meaning of the title becomes clear. Dash has a different problem. She certainly looks correct for the period, but in a sense, she is simply too beautiful. She looks like a model, not like an ordinary woman. Manoogian and Rose try to shove a moral lesson down the throats of the audience, rather than to tell story with a lesson. There is a difference, but unfortunately, they didn't realize it.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some violence and language.

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