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Charles Anderson (Nathan West) feels trapped writing for his deceased father’s meager newspaper and living in a tiny town (Dayton, TN) in steep decline. Local news is scarce in Dayton but in yonder Nashville the populist statesman and Christian fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan (Sen. Fred Thompson) stirs up the Tennessee legislature to pass an anti-evolution statute. At Robinson’s Drugstore a few local entrepreneurs, keen on a way to channel 20,000 or so folks into dying Dayton for a look-see, concoct a friendly scheme for the small town to host the “Trial of the Century” — they just need a teacher at the high school willing to claim that he taught evolution. John Scopes (Jamie Kolacki) obliges despite never having taught evolution to anybody that he can recall. When the notorious agnostic Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) agrees to defend Scopes and meet the Great Commoner in a battle to see which theory of mankind’s origin is the fittest (the Bible’s or Darwin’s), the entire world shows up and Dayton becomes the center of the journalistic universe. Once in the midst of this staged event, however, Nathan is torn between his love for the more principled Rose Williams (Ashley Johnson), his fiancÃ©e, and the escalating moral compromises that he is asked to make as the eager protÃ©gÃ© of H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun (Colm Meaney), America’s most colorful and influential columnist. Complicating matters is Rose’s half-sister of mixed race, Abigail (Khori Faison), who local doctors feel is a candidate for sterilization to prevent her, on Darwinian grounds, from propagating her supposedly inferior genes. ALLEGED is a true story of conflicts that boiled over in 1925 but that remain simmering with us to this day — evolution and creation, the role of science in social policy, and media sensationalism motivated by religious and political biases on all sides. When the truth is at stake, Charles discovers, some lies just have to be told.
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Likable Nathan West plays our intrepid young reporter, and Ashley Johnson is his equally appealing gal pal. As the Scopes trial is being engineered by local dignitaries to bring tourism and prosperity to the dying town, West also sees it as an opportunity to achieve big city success and notoriety. But at what cost? When Brian Dennehy (as Darrow) and Fred Dalton Thompson (as Jennings Bryan) square off, Colm Meaney (as Baltimore Sun editor H.L. Mencken) pushes him to dish the dirt for maximum provocation. But being enticed to the dark side has its price, and right wills out every time. The film lacks a bit of subtlety as Meaney is practically evil incarnate and the lead actors are too sweet and modernly sensible to be awarded anything but a happy ending. The film throws in a haphazard sideplot about eugenics and forced sterilization that happens to be dramatically and conveniently timed for maximum impact. It is just one of many important topics that take a backseat to the central gentle love story.
"Alleged" is certainly at its most effective when the trial is front and center. Dennehy and Dalton Thompson are a pleasure and their interactions with one another bring a livelihood to the proceedings. This being a family film, however, it paints a rather pretty picture of our past. Although racism is mentioned, no one in this little town seems the least bit prejudiced. Johnson's sister, in fact, is half black and there is relatively no reaction to that whatsoever (except by the evil character). Even though a certain character is slated for sterilization (as was common practice), a last minute injunction saves the day. Whew! Difficult topic over, never to be mentioned again. Few things can be more incendiary or heated than evolutionary debate, but most of the actual townsfolk don't seem to have an opinion one way or another. It's like they're gathering for an ice cream social.
Again, "Alleged" hints at a lot of topics without digging too deep. As an introduction, it's fine--but at 90 minutes (and most of that devoted to young lovers), important issues are given short shrift. The Special Features of the DVD include a Discussion Guide to be utilized in possible church or school settings. So that kind of gears you toward the targeted audience for the film and its intentions. It's all gently likable without being too challenging. I enjoyed the movie, but I still think there is a great film yet to be made that really digs into the Scopes trial in a relevant way. For my taste, the film rates about 3 1/2 stars for pleasantness. A good introduction, but strictly family fare--I'll round up for good intentions. KGHarris, 11/11.
That's the basis of the story found in ALLEGED, a different takes than we've witnessed before concerning the Scopes monkey trial. For years the only way to learn about this trail was through the film INHERIT THE WIND. I've always loved that film, in particular the acting done by both Spencer Tracy and Frederick March. But that movie made it seem as if the trial was the result of the people's wills often depicting anyone who was religious as fanatical.
This time around we have a different story. Instead of the trial being brought about by a teacher who has a fire burning inside of him to teach students about Darwin we instead have a town that's slowly fading that needs a hook to get folks into town again. They recruit the local science teacher into saying he believes in Darwin so that they can get people riled up about the question of creationism versus evolution.
Pulled into the midst of this whole circus is Charles Anderson (Nathan West), a reporter for the local newspaper whose father was the owner years ago. He wants to move on to better things, to the big city where he can achieve fame like his idol, H.L.Menken (Colm Meaney). Menken was the leading journalist of his time and one of the most read. Getting him involved means more folks hearing about the town and then coming for the trial.
To make it an even bigger event, the townsfolk get the best speaker they can find for the prosecution, Williams Jenning Bryan (Fred Dalton Thompson). Bryan has already decried the idea of evolutionism and the trial seems like a slam dunk. But then Menken and his paper bring in noted lawyer Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) for the defense. What seemed like a slam dunk is now a case that will be viewed and used across the country.
In the middle of it all is the story of Charles. He becomes caught up in the spectacle of the entire situation more interested in impressing Menken than in reporting facts. And while hanging around with Menken he is tutored in the art of twisting a phrase or creating a story where none exist. This was the state of journalism at that time and is represented much more here than in INHERIT. Charles becomes so invested in the lines and way of life Menken presents him that he nearly loses the most important thing in his life, his fiancé Rose (Ashley Johnson). It isn't until a crisis slaps Charles in the face where he must decide to either tell the truth or become a part of the bigger world where truth is not told but created.
The movie is well made but appears to settle into the made for TV format in feel and appearance. This movie would not have made much released to the box office. But it does offer a nice evening's entertainment as well as offer a new look at an old story.
It also has the ability to make you think differently when looking at the news. How much of what we are told these days is the truth and how much of it is twisted to suit the needs of those in charge of dispensing the news? Many claim that FOX is little more than this but the fact of the matter is that in these days EVERY news network has their own agenda when it comes to the news they disseminate. It is rare to find the absolute truth without digging deeper to find it.
Perhaps it is this reason that more people are turning away from the major news networks we all grew up watching and trusting. Too many fake stories, too many stories that turned out to be twisted and too many stories that were ignored to support one side or the other. I think that's a good thing. People need to look deeper than the surface no matter what the outcome. And with movies like this at least getting made, perhaps more people will take the time to do so.
Superb dimensional blend adds quality enhancement to interwoven Historical context , flowing action , buildup , and visuals in 'Alleged.'
*Yesterday October 22nd 2011 I participated in viewing 'Alleged' at the Made in Michigan Film Fest , in Lapeer "at the PIX"...I'm glad I went and this film was a highlight work , Also a selected Award winner!*
It was a pleasure to watch this finely developed narrative unfold with depth , warmth and balanced sensitivity to issues of Religion , Regional locale , Science , Medicine , Evolution , Education and Human interaction. At 91 minutes 'Alleged' is right on schedule in drawing emotions and sympathies to the main "Love Interest" taking place as well!
( ...the timetable includes authentic old cars , trains and Antiques too!)
IN the "monkey trial" there are huge and famous egos participating in contrast to some of the more subtle personalities and the Issues taking place do get National Attention. Conflict , tensions , friendships, and enmity , Evolve to Growth although change is not always easy.
...veteran actors Brian Dennehy and Fred Thompson bring expected flair while the "young couple" does a range of nuance...
This feature contains a wealth of material , historical detail research and reference , with fine period piece Visual displays and could be seen and shared enjoyably a number of times. There are many pleasing surprises. Well, enough said ...it's simply best and worthwhile to just watch it yourself! Enjoy!