Crouch misreads a great deal, but I think his criticism evokes the cultural context, the historical moment, within which Morrison was writing in the 1980’s. I find this useful.
When Jonathan Demme’s movie of Beloved (starring Oprah) came out in 1998, an apparent admirer of Crouch, CHARLES TAYLOR, wrote a review for Salon that panned the movie. Taylor has written film criticism for a number of years, in Salon, the NYTimes, Dissent, etc. — and is white. His prose is more over-the-top than Crouch’s and his criticism sometimes strikes me as simplistic — clever rather than insightful. But his irreverence may be an example of a new kind of contrarianism and perhaps illustrates some changes in our culture between the 80’s and the millennium.
I’ve assembled a PDF of excepts from his full review for folks who might like to see his comments about Morrison and Beloved but don’t want to read so much about Demme.
For completeness, here’s the Internet link to his full review.
Or you can download a PDF of the same. Beloved movie review, Taylor, Salon (1998).
TEASERS FROM CHARLES TAYLOR’S REVIEW OF THE MOVIE, BELOVED (1998):
… befitting his new status as an acclaimed Oscar-winning director, Demme has approached [Morrison’s novel] in the manner that has become de rigueur when talking about Toni Morrison – with bowed head and bended knee, incense burning. …
… Nothing is more inexplicable [in the movie] than [Thandie] Newton’s performance [as Beloved], which is one of the most appalling I’ve ever seen from a professional actor. It’s understandable that an actor might run into difficulties playing a literary device, a ghost who embodies her mother’s guilt over committing infanticide. What isn’t understandable is why Newton has chosen to play Beloved as a simpleton. (Morrison didn’t write the character that way.) Every time you look at Newton here, she’s acting up a storm, staring into space, drooling, smearing food around her face and talking so that the half-chewed bits fall out, letting her tongue loll into the side of her mouth and then speaking in a voice that sounds uncannily like the character of Crazy Guggenheim from the old Jackie Gleason show.