Film Review: The Burial

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, shares his thoughts on the comedy drama inspired by true events, The Burial.

This contrivedly crowd-pleasing factual drama still works and remains watchable due to the performances by a showboating Jamie Foxx and a quietly reserved Tommy Lee Jones (who was cast after Harrison Ford became unavailable, surely due to Indiana Jones duties)

Co-written and directed by Maggie (sometimes Margaret) Betts, it’s loosely drawn from a 1999 New Yorker article penned by Jonathan Harr, and although you can be pretty sure how the story’s going to progress, you’ll be dragged into the somewhat awkward tale anyway.

Back in 1995, Jones’ Jeremiah O’Keefe, a family man and owner of a chain of Mississippi funeral homes, ventures to Vancouver with his longtime lawyer pal Mike Allred (Alan Ruck) to sell three of them to the Loewen funeral company, as represented by CEO Ray Loewen (played by the frequently dastardly Bill Camp). A contractual issue and legal case lead young attorney and family friend Hal Dockins (Mamoudou Athie) to suggest that Jeremiah hire star personal injury lawyer Willie E. Gary (Foxx), who performs in court in much the same way he does in church.

The issue of race here is fumbled somewhat, and yet Betts, Foxx and the rest of the cast ensure that it’s powerful nevertheless – and, as this is America, it’s inescapable. However, despite these angry underpinnings, there’s a fair quotient of charming comedy too, with a friendship developing between Willie and Jeremiah that leads to some genuinely funny and sweet scenes that might have actually happened.

Or did they? Naturally, as with so many ‘inspirational’ true stories, it’s hard to tell and you can’t help but feel suspicious, but this isn’t fastidiously trying make sure the facts are all 100% correct: no, it’s hoping to win you over with this study of two upstanding guys fighting to bury a seemingly untouchable and seriously evil multi-billion-buck corporation.

Which, it must be said, was really asking for it.

The Burial is now streaming on Amazon Prime


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