Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

The Life of David Gale’s credits might as well read “Hollywood Bleeding Hearts Who Hate Bush.” An anti-death-penalty screed that bludgeons viewers with the message that Texas’ hair-trigger execution policy is wrong, wrong, wrong, Gale barely disguises allusions to our cavalier president in his former role as governor. When the film’s state leader (Michael Crabtree) is referred to as being “in touch with his inner frat boy” and trots out the phrase “fuzzy thinking,” even the staunchest lefty will cry for scriptwriter Charles Randolph to hang. Not that Randolph is solely to blame for this dislikable movie. Director Alan Parker litters the screen at random moments with single-word pronouncements—”Truth!” “Life!” “Suffer!” “Enemy!”—but his point would be hard to miss regardless. David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is a professor and vocal capital-punishment opponent who is allegedly framed for rape and murder, and sentenced to death. Now, you might assume that the charges are for the rape and murder of the same person, but come on, that’s been done. No, Gale implausibly gets set up first for the rape of his smokin’ but scorned student Berlin (Rhona Mitra), then for the murder of his activist friend Constance (a shrill Laura Linney). His story is told in flashbacks as a hard-edged reporter by the name of, uh, Bitsey Bloom (a shrill Kate Winslet) is granted Gale’s final interview. Hand-picked by Gale because she has a reputation as a “Mike Wallace with PMS” who’s fiercely protective of her sources, Bitsey goes into the assignment convinced he’s guilty scum—but I doubt it will shock anybody that her attitude rapidly changes. Winslet fans, however, may be surprised to watch their indie darling resort to open-mouthed cries whenever she hears or sees an icky development, once even dropping to her knees in exaggerated sorrow. Spacey likewise should have been careful with the melodramatic danger zone surrounding his character, who, apparently not having suffered enough, is also saddled with a drinking problem—which offers plenty of opportunities for stumbling, slurring, and crying, “Gimme another Oscar!” with increasing desperation. We can only hope that the Academy isn’t listening: It might remind Spacey and his cohorts that no matter how good your intentions, in the end, it’s the movie, not the message.—Tricia Olszewski