Published Oct 15, 2010How do I say this? Conviction is the sort of film that you would take your grandmother to see on a Sunday afternoon. You might warn her that there may be some mild cursing, but for the most part, it's a comfortable choice for the over-70 crowd. You could even stop at the Golden Griddle for lunch on your way there.
Being a biopic and underdog story, detailing working mother Betty Anne Waters' (Hilary Swank) two-decade struggle to get her wrongfully convicted brother, Kenny (Sam Rockwell), out of prison ― putting herself through law school in the process ― every moment is inevitably maudlin, manufactured and predictable. From the outset, Kenny acts as comic relief, a man that may be rough around the edges but has a heart of gold. Similarly, Betty Anne exists only as a moral vessel for adversity struggle, having no characterization beyond her single-minded battle for the reaffirming, uplifting agenda of a film trying to convince us that good always prevails.
And while Tony Goldwyn is good with actors, he's not a particularly visionary, cinematic director, being better suited to mediocre television. In fact, this particular middle-America diversion is just two credible actors and a poop-throwing scene removed from network television-calibre hokum. Characters are never developed beyond plot necessity, with Minnie Driver standing in as the sassy best friend and Peter Gallagher standing around looking lawyerly.
Fortunately, Swank does manage to make her myopic working mother shtick work by showing her fraying edges, looking genuinely perplexed when people suggest that she might be a delusional idiot. Driver also provides some much-needed amusement with her one-note, sassy comment-tossing supporting role.
But what really stands out amidst the obvious foreshadowing and routine plot is the three minutes Juliette Lewis has on screen. That woman does white trash like no other. Given more time in this film, she could easily have been a contender, along with Animal Kingdom's Jacki Weaver, for Best Supporting Actress this year. (Fox)