With two rat terriers trotting at his heels, and a long wooden staff in his hand, J.R. Gavin leads me through the woods to one of the old swamp hide-outs. A tall white man with a deep Southern drawl, Gavin has a stern presence, gracious manners and intense brooding eyes. At first I mistook him for a preacher, but he’s a retired electronic engineer who writes self-published novels about the rapture and apocalypse. One of them is titled Sal Batree, after the place he wants to show me.I’m here in Jones County, Mississippi, to breathe in the historical vapors left by Newton Knight, a poor white farmer who led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War. With a company of like-minded white men in southeast Mississippi, he did what many Southerners now regard as unthinkable. He waged guerrilla war against the Confederacy and declared loyalty to the Union.In the spring of 1864, the Knight Company overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones, and some say it actually seceded from the Confederacy. This little-known, counter-intuitive episode in American history has now been brought to the screen in Free State of Jones, directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) and starring a grimy, scruffed-up Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight.Knight and his men, says Gavin, hooking away an enormous spider web with his staff and warning me to be careful of snakes, “had a number of different hide-outs. The old folks call this one Sal Batree. Sal was the name of Newt’s shotgun, and originally it was Sal’s Battery, but it got corrupted over the years.”
“I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was 15, my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me, and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for. And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of ‘After Earth,’ when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.”
That quote was from an interview in Variety this year.
In the article is a reference to how he dealt with that film, as it turned out to be the biggest failure of his life. I thought ‘what an amazing comment‘. Clearly Will Smith is both driven and successful judging by common standards. We often think of the famous as role models we should learn from and try to emulate. But in this instance I think I can take away something from this abject calamity. If Will Smith can learn a valuable lesson in this situation, then I most certainly could.
I sometimes think people like Will experience so much success, so little in the way of setbacks – every thing, interaction, or endeavor they encounter occurs relatively free from the gravity of what the rest of us deal with on a daily basis – that I rationalize the world has to be different for them. The same rules don’t apply.
But I am so wrong.
Will Smith was soon to discover that his father had cancer.
I would submit to you that there were a number of reactions for him to choose. And each would bring its own set of consequences. How do you suppose you would have responded? Perhaps I pose an unfair question.
Let me instead share what it is that I am able to gain from this story. Simply this. We can learn at least one thing from every dead end that we come to. When we apply those lessons our lives are then changed for the better, regardless of how low we’ve fallen. I think I can appreciate the experience in that respect. I can find hope in that too. And hope is good.
So what did Will Smith say that he learned? Here is what he said. I think you’ll decide it was worth it.
“That Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole,” Smith said. “You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”
I like this one
This is a nice review of a very pleasant film.
What do you think about the message of Tomorrowland?
It took Ex Machina for me to break a hiatus. While it entertains as well as it provokes thought and dialogue, this film strikes that delicate balance which every great science fiction seeks to achieve.