It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Marvin & Tige" is a movie that has been so completely overtaken by tragic events that it is impossible to view it in the spirit in which it was made. It tells the story of a friendship between two survivors: an 11-year-old black street kid and an alcoholic middle-aged white bum. The movie takes place in Atlanta. It was filmed in 1982 and then; of course the tragic series of Atlanta child murders began and the innocence of this film was undermined by the daily headlines.
I tried, as I was watching the film, to avoid thinking about the police dragnet in Atlanta that was looking for just such couples as this young kid and his friend, the bleary-eyed drifter. I could not. But there were other things that bothered me about the film, too, including its treatment of the boy's natural father.
After the bum (John Cassavetes) stages a search, he discovers that the boy's father is a wealthy black businessman (Billy Dee Williams) who lives in a mansion with his wife and daughters, who all could be right out of the pages of Town and Country. In one of the movie's key scenes, the kid has to choose between an ideal black family and a smelly white bum, and it's a close call. I don't object to the choice, so much as to the emotional manipulation that has led up to it.
"Marvin & Tige" is a movie that starts strong and grows progressively cornier and more predictable. The opening scenes are very moving. They show Tige (Gibran Brown) and his mother (Denise Nicholas-Hill), who is a prostitute. Tige steals soup from the supermarket, comes home, eats what he has stolen and then snuggles up while his mother reads him a story. The next morning, she is dead. Tige's reactions in this and the following scenes are a tribute to the acting talent of Brown.