The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams



Laemmle Theatres/ThinkFilm/Strongbow Pictures

"The Last Confederate: The Story of Robert Adams" is a unique film, a Civil War drama based on a true story of the filmmaker's great-great-grandparents during that period. This, of course, explains the heavily romanticized, sugarcoated view of that tragic era.

Julian Adams, who wrote and co-directed the film in which he stars as his ancestor Robert Adams, and his father Weston Adams, who produced the film with his son, have made a perfect film for family gatherings in South Carolina. But any nonfamily members seeking a greater understanding of that war and the mind-sets that triggered its horrific carnage -- the worst in human history at that point -- will come away empty. Even as a war-torn romance, certainly a time-honored movie tradition, the film comes up lame.

If the script Adams wrote is truly based on "a wealth of diaries, letters and family documents" about Robert and Eveline Adams, then what explains the film's singular inability to enter into the hearts and minds of its protagonists? What we get is a sappy and primly observed courtship between a well-heeled cotton planter and a Yankee schoolteacher (Gwendolyn Edwards), newly arrived in the South with a hairdo worthy of a 21st century beauty salon.

The war, of course, postpones wedding plans. Robert fights bravely for the Southern cause, gets captured, escapes, accidentally happens upon his bride in Pennsylvania, insists on returning to the fight and survives to marry Eveline and raise a family.

The acting has little depth other than a spirited turn by Amy Redford as Eveline's sister. Tippi Hedren and Mickey Rooney put in brief though unnecessary cameos.

Like "Gone With the Wind," the movie views the war as a fight to protect land and a way of life while ignoring the fact this life was built on the institution of slavery. Indeed, the film's picture of race relations is risible.

Slaves are depicted as well treated and grateful to their white masters. At one point, a white dismounts from his horse and as he hands the reins to a black slave, he actually thanks the man as one would a restaurant valet.

Even more troubling is a sequence showing the filmmaker's great-great-grandfather regaining consciousness in a wooded battlefield. Seeing four Union soldiers having a quiet smoke, he shoots them in the back. If this incident is true, then even Robert Adams' heroism is hard to swallow.