Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: Fruitvale Station

Release Date:  July 12, 2013
Running Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
Who to see it with: Someone concerned about social justice.


Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant during New Years Eve 2008. The movie follows the events leading up to that fateful night as he meets friends, enemies, and strangers. What eventually unfolded was shocking and painful to watch. And thankfully, it's masterfully told by 27-year-old director Ryan Coogler. Coogler has a clean style of directing that is great for telling a story like this. This movie is a character driven one and it definitely shows. There are long cuts, flashbacks to help give Oscar's character depth, and some of the most dramatic scenes are masterfully done. The movie has a slow, deliberate pace that focuses on the story it's telling, but also leaves you anxious for what you know will come later. 

One of the risks Fruitvale Station faced was the concern that it might put Oscar Grant on a pedestal and change his story, memorializing him after the fact. Thankfully, Coogler and Michael B. Jordan portray Oscar as I expect he was: a good but flawed character. They don't try to sugar coat his past or his many faults, but they also manage to bring out plenty that was good in him. You're left feeling a sense that Oscar is a real character, not a saint, which makes the movie all the more powerful. It also helps that the supporting cast is great. Octavia Spencer is phenomenal as Ms. Grant and Ariana Neal is wonderful as Oscar's daughter Tatiana. The chemistry between the cast is easily apparent, especially the relationship between Oscar and his daughter. If there is any criticism about the movie, it's that instead of being a "true story," it's "based on a true story." Some of the scenes do feel a little contrived and convenient, placed in the film to give Oscar more characters to interact with. There is another scene part way through the movie that seems completely random. But, those aren't enough to derail what is already a very good film. Fruitvale Station combines a powerful recent event, amazing acting, and great directing. Together, they manage to tell a poignant and important story; one that should not be missed.

See it.

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