Simplicity hurts the story of a life hanging in balance

“The Life of David Gale” reminded me of a movie that came out last year, “John Q,” starring Denzel Washington. The movies had very little in common in terms of content, but they did both have political messages. “John Q” was centered around the notion that health care should be provided for all citizens equally. “The Life of David Gale” proposes an argument against capital punishment.

I should first say that I am against capital punishment, so one would think that this movie would appeal to me. It didn’t and I can’t imagine someone who supports the use of capital punishment sitting through a two-hour commercial against it.

“The Life of David Gale” basically revolves around one great irony, that David Gale (Kevin Spacey) has found himself on death row after being a major opponent of the practice in his home state of Texas.

Gale is found guilty of the rape and murder of Constance Harraway (Laura Linney), his co-worker in the Death Watch Organization, which fights for the rights of death row inmates.

With less then a week before his execution, Gale’s lawyer, Braxton Belyeu (Leon Rippy), contacts journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) to inform her that Gale is willing to give her three two-hour interviews for half a million dollars. Bitsey, with her magazine’s hesitant backing, jumps on the exclusive interview, in which she hopes to snag the story of her life.

Bitsey heads to Texas with intern Zack (Gabriel Mann), fully believing that Gale is guilty of rape and murder.

Most of the story is told in flashbacks over the three days of interviewing. The audience is not shown a pretty picture of Gale: he’s a drunk, he’s cocky and his wife is cheating on him with a Spanish lover. He only has two relationships in the movie that I can say put his character in a positive light – his relationship with his friend, Constance, and his relationship with his son.

Gale has sex with an ex-graduate student, Berlin (Rhona Mitra) at a party where both professors and students get drunk. Gale is then accused of rape, until Berlin drops all the charges and heads out of town. It is here that Gale’s life begins to deteriorate.

He loses his job at the university and no other school is interested in hiring an accused rapist. On top of this, his wife and child leave him and move to Spain, where she uses his labeling as a rapist and his drunken past as a means to win custody of their child.

Gale begins to lose it all, and it is in this moment that he even loses his association with Death Watch. When accused, Gale swears he did not kill or rape his good friend, Constance, and he believes he is being set up by right-wing politicians, who want to stop his powerful voice in the local media.

The rest of the story revolves around ironies, hidden tapes that are given to Bitsey that point her towards the truth of the story and a cliffhanger ending that this reviewer refuses to disclose.

I can tell you that this movie is too contrived because I could predict most of what was happening before it happened and I’m usually really bad at that. Instead of making an intelligent movie that left the value of capital punishment open-ended for the viewers to contemplate, “The Life of David Gale” was too quick to assume that capital punishment is wrong.

I think what bothered me the most was that this movie had a lot of potential. I am a huge fan of both Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet, and both were excellent in their respective roles.

I didn’t like some of the portrayals of women in this movie, and I found it interesting that this film chose to make a statement surrounding a white man’s execution when mostly minorities are executed in Texas.

Bottom Line: I’m still against the death penalty, but I’m also against seeing this movie.