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Pedro Almodóvar's long-time accomplice turned Hollywood hunk Antonio Banderas made his directorial debut with this quirky 1999 film set in a racially-charged 1960's town. Banderas' real-life wife Melanie Griffith stars as Lucille, a housewife and mother with a desire to be a movie star and a penchant for justifiable homicide.

There are two main storylines in the Mark Childress-penned script (based on his own book of the same name). Lucille kills her abusive husband after thirteen years of marriage and sets off to California to make a name for herself on the screen -- with her husband's head in tow inside a tupperware container. She begins to imagine it talking to her during her journey, repeatedly trying to find a proper place for its disposal. Meanwhile, in her hometown in Alabama, her nephew and brother (played brilliantly by Lucas Black and David Morse, respectively) are stuck as observers in a race war involving a corrupt and bigoted local sheriff (Meat Loaf). The two stories converge in a series of non-cliched courtroom scenes (presided over by the late Rod Steiger) with an ending that is both touching and justified.

As the only movie written by Childress and the only one directed by Banderas, it would seem like the film would suffer from a variety of newbie mistakes. Instead, the components come together in a very interesting synergy. For some reason, distributor Columbia/Tristar failed to promote the movie very well and it slipped under the radar for many viewers. After seeing the movie, I have a newfound respect for the talent and creativity of Antonio Banderas and look forward to his future works.

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