Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fruitvale Station

***1/2 out of ****

Right now, there is an undeniable future Academy Award contender playing in theaters called, Fruitvale Station, which tells the true story of 22-year old Oscar Grant and the last day of his life. This was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

While the opening of the movie impacts us with actual cellphone video footage of Grant’s killing at the hands of a transit security officer, the movie is mainly focused on the life that would be taken, with the taking of the life as the arc of the film. It’s New Year’s Eve, 2008 and a young African American man living in the Bay area goes about his day in preparation for his Mother’s birthday with plans to hit the town with his girlfriend and others at the end of the night.

While embellishments and conjecture are inevitable, the twenty-seven-year-old first time writer/director Ryan Coogler has made a graceful film with the foundation of a tragedy that will remind everyone of recent media events. He cited Gus Van Sant’s Elephant and De Cica’s Bicycle Thieves among his inspirations.

Here's Elvis Mitchell's interview with Coogler.

This movie feels like a reaction to people who choose to disassociate from an unjust death when it is of someone considered “questionable.” People can be very quick to blame the victim when they don’t care to have known the victim. Regardless of racist implications that come with this attitude. This was a living, breathing person filled with flaws and strengths and he is now missed. He didn't deserve to die.

Coogler, who did a great amount of research on Oscar’s life, creates a complex character with actor Michael B. Jordon, who has a different appearance to keep with everyone he meets. His four-year-old daughter (Ariana Neal), his girlfriend (MelonieDiaz), and mother (Octavia Spencer) all know him differently.

With cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Sound of My Voice), Coogler’s film is shot with handheld 16mm cinematography and is steeped in naturalism. This is very empathetic portrait of a man. Regardless of whether or not they capture the essence of the real Oscar Grant, this is a film that gives us a person who, in spite of many shortcomings, we want to see live.

Here's a good discussion on multiple perspectives of the film's value.

No comments:

Post a Comment