Since I saw Fruitvale Station recently, my first film for this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival; I cannot get it out of my head. The events depicted in this film, the true events – shown with the real footage captured on that New Year’s Day early morning, as well as the re-enactment have stayed with me, haunting me. Making me feel that despair, and hopelessness. A witness to something that I wasn’t ready for.
I went in knowing only what I’d seen in the trailer, as well as with Alicia Malone’s vehement encouragement to see this. IMDB states that the film is ‘the purportedly true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008′. Before he was shot by transit police on the Fruitvale Station platform in front of hundreds of witnesses. For no reason. The film is about the plans he had, and wished for on New Year’s Eve, which was also his mother’s birthday.
I’ve seen films like this before, where the ending has been provided before you even start it. Where it is a ‘leading up to’ the actual incident so you’d think that means you’re more ready for it. I should have known better. I mean, United 93 still stays with me because of how the true events which had been pieced together via the phone calls made, and audio from the cockpit – but to see it visually, makes it all the more painful. It puts us in the mode of wishing that we were watching something fictional.
That is what I felt watching Fruitvale Station. Plus 1000. You know, despite the film opening with the video phone footage (whether or not its an iPhone, that’s not important) I still.. I still had that optimistic hope that Oscar would survive the shooting.
There is no way that anyone could accuse first time director, and writer Ryan Coogler of painting that sugar-coated ‘he didn’t deserve to be shot because he was perfect’ film. He didn’t set out to show Oscar in any other light than what was true. Of any human being.
He’d been out of jail for under a year trying to get back on the straight and narrow, but of course – you can’t change overnight. He was still in possession of marijuana. He had been cheating on his girlfriend Sophina (and mother of his four-year-old daughter Tatiana) and had a short temper. We get to see that. There’s an absolutely harrowing moment in a flashback to only a year earlier when his mother visits him in jail; and you see the temper there flare up, and Michael B Jordan’s performance here is powerfully brilliant. In his mannerisms, and eyes. It is something you know he wouldn’t want his mother to see, and we see it as well.
For us to see Oscar in this light is just as hard as it is for us to see him begging his former boss for his job back. Hard for us to see those moments with his daughter. Or having to let his girlfriend know the truth about his losing his job. All of these things that can happen to any of us.
Michael B Jordan’s performance is magnetic. He holds the audience with him for 98% of the film and he never lets us doubt that he just wanted to be a good man. There is no doubt this should be Jordan’s stand out role; though he was last seen on the big screen in Chronicle – as well as TV favourites such as Friday Night Lights and The Wire. Melonie Diaz, who plays Sophina is a powerful supporting role here. Her time on screen is raw and as haunting as that of Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer, who plays Oscar’s mother.
Ryan Coogler, as writer and director here – only 27 himself makes a strong entrance. With subject matter close to what he knows, having worked with incarcerated juveniles since he was 21, he has given a voice to Oscar and anybody that ‘looks’ like Oscar. That would be pre-judged and dismissed as many others have with the same fatal consequence.
This review may have been a bit too stream-of-consciousness, and I tried to make this more objective. More concise. But it still feels so raw. I’ve been poring over interviews with the cast, with the director. I wish I hadn’t gone to see the film alone, because I literally had to leave the cinema with red, splotchy eyes (and I’m like Clare Danes, I cry UGLY) and I didn’t have anyone to hug. I want to see this again, yet at the same time, I don’t want to cry. Again. Big. Fat. Tears. I don’t even think I can really convey how much I want everyone to see this film. Please know – this is a
This review comes to us from Pop Couture.