Amazon Studios is in talks with Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne to helm the legal drama The Burial. Written by Doug Wright, the film is based on the true story “of Willie Gary, a successful personal-injury lawyer from Mississippi,” according to Deadline. “He takes on the case of Jeremiah O’Keefe, the owner of a local chain of funeral homes who claimed he had been swindled by a major funeral parlor conglomerate. The rags-to-riches lawyer turns it into a David vs. Goliath morality play.”
Legal dramas are fairly rare these days in theaters, but it’s still a fertile genre, especially when you have a colorful character like Gary, a flamboyant lawyer, the son of poor black migrant workers who became known as “The Giant Killer,” for his exploits in this case (so don’t worry if you think it’s going to be a mega-downer like A Civil Action).
As for Payne, while his previous film Downsizing was a disappointment, I’m still eager to see what he does as a follow-up. The Burial definitely has an interesting story, and like Downsizing, could be particularly timely as Americans feel the little guy getting squeezed out by major corporations. Throw in something as personal as burials, and you’ve got a solid story on your hands. I’m certainly eager to see who Payne casts in the lead role if he comes on board.
I’m also happy that Amazon is (at least for the time being) continuing its commitment to strong dramas. There was word they were moving more into blockbuster territory, and their silence at this year’s Sundance was deafening. But if they’re reaching out to Payne, it shows they’re still interested in prestige dramas, and hopefully The Burial won’t be the only one on the studio’s upcoming slate of projects. Their next film, You Were Never Really Here, opens next month and you should absolutely see it.