Sunday 21 April 2024

Movie Review: The Trials Of Cate McCall (2013)

Genre: Legal Drama  
Director: Karen Moncrieff  
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Nick Nolte, James Cromwell  
Running Time: 89 minutes  

Synopsis: Lawyer Cate McCall (Kate Beckinsale) is on probation due to an alcoholism problem. Despite support from her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Bridges (Nick Nolte), she only has limited visitation rights to see her daughter. As part of her probation Cate is assigned a pro bono case to appeal the murder conviction of Lacey Stubbs (Anna Schafer), and finds enough irregularities in the initial trial proceedings to cast doubt about Lacey's guilt in the mind of Judge Sumpter (James Cromwell). But Cate's apparent moment of triumph is just a gateway for a new set of unexpected problems.

What Works Well: Writer and director Karen Moncrieff confidently wades into the tumultuous life of a bright but flawed protagonist refusing to do anything the easy way. Cate's past and present have merged into one large mess, and Lacey Stubbs' convoluted murder charges add complexity well beyond most cinematic court cases. Kate Beckinsale powers through the ups and downs of the central role with aplomb, ably supported by a grizzled Nick Nolte deploying a lifetime of questionable wisdom.

What Does Not Work As Well: For the 89 minutes of running time, too much is going on. A prior wrongful conviction case hovers over Cate's psyche but receives sketchy treatment, while the Lacey Stubbs case falls victim to plenty of telling but no showing. The final act unsurprisingly unravels, the rush to satisfying resolutions trampling all over important procedural explanations.

Conclusion: A mixed verdict due to ambitious but excessive plotting.

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