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Harriet - DVD Review

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Harriet (2019)

There’s a shocking, telling moment late in the movie Harriet (2019). Referring to a group of escaped slaves, the villain Gideon (Joe Elwyn) calls them “three bucks and a female with foal.” Of course, he does much worse throughout the movie. But that one line perfectly illustrates the sick, dehumanizing mindset of slavery proponents. To them, slaves were subhuman and no better than animals. Slaves could be bought and sold, separated from their families, beaten, raped and worked to death. Into this horrific world came Harriet Tubman, who was born Araminta “Minty” Ross in 1840s Maryland. Due to a head injury in her childhood, Minty (who later took the free name Harriet Tubman) had “spells” and religious visions. She believed that God guided her over the years, sometimes in a literal sense as she evaded capture.

"Harriet depicts its historical figure subject as nearly superhuman."


Even her enemies saw something remarkable in Harriet, prompting one named Walter (Henry Hunter Hall) to change sides and start helping her. Other rivals hunted for an almost mythical figure they called “Moses.” They assumed the mysterious slave liberator was a Northern white male. Few could believe a small black woman could pull off such daring rescues.

Playing Harriet, British singer and actress Cynthia Erivo is full of steely resolve and courage. We see her evolve from a fearful runaway slave to a brave leader, sure of herself and her vital role in the burgeoning abolitionist movement. Also commendable are actors in supporting roles, such as Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles as Eliza Brodess. The widow of a slavemaster, she’s left to face massive debt and a slave uprising. One could almost feel sorry for her. Yet another singer-slash-actress shines in a bit part: Janelle Monae plays Marie Buchanon, an elegant, sophisticated Northerner who runs a boarding house. She befriends Harriet and winds up paying the price.Harriet (2019)

Harriet depicts its historical figure subject as nearly superhuman. While her innate goodness is obvious, the other characters display more moral complexity. The good guys are not always right, and the bad guys (like their enlightened peers) grew up in an era where slavery was common and hardly questioned. One can’t make assumptions based on skin color, either. Some free African-Americans hunted down slaves for bounty. There were also white Quakers, for example, fighting the system and protecting runaways. At one point, a confused Harriet asks, “How do you tell the angels from the devils?” She learned how to do so well enough to lead over 70 slaves to freedom, on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she freed 750 more slaves in the Combahee River Raid. The movie Harriet is a powerful, fitting tribute to her.

4/5 stars

Harriet (2019)

DVD

DVD Details:

Home Video Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray
- January 28, 2020
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: French Canadian, Spanish
Audio:
English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Discs: DVD Disc; single disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Kasi Lemmons: This is as informative as it gets. If you enjoy the movie, listen in for all the juicy details and background trivia. It takes lots of talented people to put together a movie like Harriet.

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes: Out of 7 deleted scenes, the most striking (“John’s Wife”) shows Harriet in a disturbing and much less idealized light. After finding out her beloved husband has remarried, she briefly points her gun at the pregnant woman. Cutting this scene was the right decision.
  • Her Story: In this short featurette, the filmmakers talk about how the concept through the finished project came to be. Harriet came along at just the right time in Hollywood history, with new interest shown in the stories of women and particularly people of color.
  • Becoming Harriet: Cynthia Erivo talks about the pressure of the role. Others praise her performance, explaining why they chose Cynthia (“The Color Purple”) for the part.

Harriet (2019)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.
Runtime:
126 mins
Director
: Kasi Lemmons
Writer:
Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
Cast:
Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn
Genre
: Drama | Biopic
Tagline:
The unbelievable true story of Harriet Tubman, an American legend.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm gonna be free or die."
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal
Release Date:
November 1, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 28, 2020.
Synopsis: The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Harriet (2019)

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