Devil In A Blue Dress Film Analysis Essay

Easy Rawlins, the warmly charismatic hero of "Devil in a Blue Dress," takes his first detective work because he's jobless and needs money to make his mortgage payments. But when Denzel Washington, who plays Easy, visits the office of a wealthy businessman, he looks as if he's stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine.

Anyone care to complain about that? The role of Easy looks as tailor-made for Mr. Washington as his suit, and it shows off the full effect of this actor's movie-star dazzle. In a career dotted with generic roles and noble ones, he's never had a part that fit him better.

Mr. Washington is not the only one shown off to fine advantage by this unusually vibrant film noir. Carl Franklin, who made his reputation (after an acting career and some directing work for Roger Corman) with the much-admired sleeper "One False Move," risked suffering a form of sophomore slump with this bigger effort. Instead, he rises expertly to the occasion. While it shows off the same acuity that made "One False Move" so gripping, "Devil in a Blue Dress" also creates a dense, inviting backdrop depicting black culture in Los Angeles, circa 1948. In the process of drawing audiences into the twists and turns of a knotty detective tale, Mr. Franklin and his cinematographer, Tak Fujimoto, open up an enticing and languorous lost world.

Unlike the hard-boiled types who usually populate such stories, the characters in "Devil in a Blue Dress" know how to relax and enjoy one another's company. The whole film has the same geniality seen in Easy, though it also shares the apprehensiveness he feels when color lines are too abruptly crossed. The film perfectly captures the tone of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins detective novels ("Devil in a Blue Dress" was the first), in which the hero's wary intelligence captures the racial climate of the times. When the books' Easy speaks fondly of sitting in his hard-earned little house and worriedly about "strange white men with dead blue eyes," he defines the boundaries of his world.

Crossing those boundaries is what gives these books their special edginess and scope. In "Devil in a Blue Dress," Easy is recruited for a detective's job only because he is black and (on the evidence of his narrative voice) loaded with charm. What he's being hired to do is find the white woman of the title, who is said to prefer black men. But he's worried about the solicitous white hoodlum (Tom Sizemore) who recruited him, since the man shows such gusto in defending Easy against bigots during one early scene. Easy has no trouble imagining what the flip side of that fervor would be like.

"Devil in a Blue Dress" uses this setup to send Easy into a labyrinthine plot, broken down into so many house calls and crime scenes that the film, like the book, seems to have chapters. It's not necessary to track this closely to enjoy the story's exposition. There are enough shifts of mood and well-drawn settings to hold interest, along with an unusually full array of minor figures. The one to remember is Don Cheadle's Mouse, an old friend of Easy's who is both scene-stealing good company and a homicidal loose cannon. In this multifaceted story, it's not all that hard to be both.

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When an individual reads a book and then sees the movie that is based on the book, there is bound to be many differences between the two. Sometimes there are elements that are present in the book that have a tendency to get lost in the production and directing of a movie. At other times, the movie adds elements that are not originally in the book. In Walter Mosley’s book, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” and the movie of the same name share some similar literary elements. However, there are several vital situations and parts of the book’s story that are not present in the film. Hence, the movie downplays a lot of the foul language as well as the racial slurs that were used in the era the book was set in. With a comparison of the two mediums, it will show the differences and similarities between the story elements of the book as well as the story elements of the movie.

Both the book and the movie start with the same challenge for Easy Rawlins. Easy needs money to make mortgage payments for his most prized possession, his home. He had been laid off from his job at Champion Aircraft because he told his boss,”he would not stay and inspect the plane, he would like to be fully rested before inspecting the aircraft to ensure that it was assembled properly (Mosley pg73).” Unfortunately now his desire is to find a job so that he can make the mortgage payments. Two days later after being laid off, while at Joppy’s bar Easy ends up meeting a white man that comes in. The man’s name is Mr. Albright. Mr. Albright tells Easy that he needs someone to find a girl for him and he is offering to pay that person. Easy accepts the offer from Mr. Albright with the alternative challenge of surviving the white man’s system.

Easy’s plan is to find the girl, Daphne Monet and collect the money from Mr. Albright. As the plot unfolds, his plan becomes more involved. In the book his plan includes having a romance with Daphne; however, in the movie his plan is more of a quest for truth and an attempt to clear his name with the police. The challenge is complicated and everyone is trying to get at Easy because of his knowledge or the lack of in regards to Daphne’s whereabouts. Easy’s self-realization in both the book and the movie is when Mouse saves Easy’s life, but then kills Joppy in an execution style. Easy is grateful to his friend, but does not know how to deal with such meaningless brutality. Easy’s new balance though comes when he his talking to Odell and asks him, “if a man knows that his friend did something wrong but does not turn him into the police, is it wrong (263)?” Odell replies with, “All you got is your friends (263).” In the movie, the audience sees Easy go through the change; where as, in the book we know that he has two years salary buried in his back yard, which gives him the nest egg and security to try a new field of work. However, in both cases Easy changes and adjusts himself to become a private detective.

The most obvious similarities between the book and the movie are the way that the story is told as well as the setting. The setting is in Los Angeles, California around the late 1940s. In the movie the director chooses costumes from that time period and uses antique cars to help create the illusion for the audience whereas in the book the reader only knows the setting by Easy’s description as he says, “I was used to white people by 1948 (45).” In the book the reader can only see things through Easy Rawlins’s eyes which are a subjective view through Easy’s narration. Also in both the book and the movie, the narrative point of view is in first person which is told by Easy Rawlins. As he narrates, Easy leads us along with him in search for answers to the mystery of Daphne Monet and we experience his confusion and inability to understand what is going on around him.

However, there is a great deal of differences between the book and the movie. In the book we as the reader get a great sense of Easy’s motivations through his narration and we also get more of a story than we do in the movie. One of the most noticeable differences in the book and the movie is that everybody in the book is linked to each other whereas in the movie supposedly nobody knew anyone. For instance, in the book Joppy knew Albright; Albright knew Todd Carter; Todd Carter knew Richard McGee as well as Matthew Terrell whereas in the movie every character denied knowing each other except Albright and Joppy. Another noticeable difference is that in the book Frank Green, Daphne’s brother ends up murdered and in the movie he lives and they both end up moving.

The third noticeable difference is a character name change from the book to the movie; Matthew Teran in the book is Matthew Terrell in the movie and he ends up being murdered in the book whereas at the end of the movie he’s running for mayor. A fourth noticeable difference is the pier scene. In the book Albright and Easy meet at the Santa Monica pier and in the movie it is the Malibu pier. And the last most noticeable difference between the book and the movie is that Mouse knows Daphne Monet or shall we call her by her real name Ruby Hanks; however, in the movie the audience never finds that out. In the movie the only true thing you get to know about Daphne is that she is both black and white. Therefore, due to the many differences between the book and the movie it is confusing to the audience since it is almost like dealing with two different stories because of the plot inconsistencies.

Even though, you have those noticeable differences that were mentioned in the above paragraph the biggest difference of them all between the movie and the book is the language. In the book there is a lot more foul language and racial slurs than there is in the movie. This kind of dramatic difference could be because in the book you have to use words and certain kind of language to set the mood as well as show and express how things were back then in the 1940 between the different races. Whereas in the movie actions and body language can expresses the mood a lot more than words. Also another reason possible for the lack of language could be that with a movie you have to focus on the audience appeal as well as movie ratings and peer acceptance.

Therefore, if a director wants people to come see the movie, he or she must get a good rating and by doing that certain items such as language and sometimes violence must be taken into consideration. As for the category of detective stories, there are similar characteristics that are common from one movie to the next. The context of the detective story is one of a man on a quest for information and answers; therefore, usually following a trail of dead bodies, death threats, and beautiful women. This context is more evident in the book than in the movie.

The typical tough guy talk, sex with the beautiful woman, lots of shooting and action, and danger are all present in both; however, the context is more dark and tough-guy like in the book. The movie’s context is more like a black man who has fallen into the job because of circumstances, but the book makes Easy’s private eye job as a kind of natural extension of who he is. In the book, Easy has seen killing, torture, and injustice in the war; we don’t get to see this in the movie. The context is still that he is a tough guy, but with a different motivation.

In conclusion, there are elements that are present in the book version that were lost in the production and directing of the movie; however, the movie did add some elements such as the goodbye scene between Daphne and Carter that was not in the book. In regards to Walter Mosley’s book, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” and the movie by the same name do share some similar literary elements, but there are several vital situations and parts of the book’s story that are not present in the film. Comparing and contrasting the story elements such as narrative point of view, setting, plot and the classical structure show that the screen writer for “Devil in a Blue Dress,” took many liberties with the movie version in respect to the plot, story, and ending. Although both mediums are enjoyable on their own, the audience and readers can see that the book and movie are very different.


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