I should warn you, this is much more testimonial than it is a movie review.  Really, not many of my posts constitute movie reviews – I’m not A.O. Scott.  I’m just a Brooklyn cat with    a hell of a lot of opinions.  Of course it will be difficult, if not impossible, to discuss some of the things that were done from a technical perspective; but this post is more about the timeliness and the emotional response that was evoked by viewing this very important film by rookie feature director/writer Ryan Coogler even by a cynic like me.

Ryan Coogler – Writer/Director
Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Red Tails) – Oscar Grant
Octavia Spencer (Seven Pounds, The Help) – Wanda/Oscar’s mother
Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind) – Sophina/Oscar’s girlfriend and babymama

And a supporting cast that donated laudably realistic performances that added to the film’s organic feel, including Ariana Neal (as Tatiana), Trestin George, Destiny Ekwueme, Kevin Durand, and Chad Michael Murray.


Here are the details that are undisputed.  Oscar Grant was a 22 year old black make with a checkered past.  He was riding on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system after celebrating the New Year with his friends (as so many of us have done in repeatedly).  He was stopped by the BART police after some sort of altercation on the train.  He was face down on the ground and shot in the back by one of the BART police who claimed that he had mistaken his pistol for his Taser when he fired a shot into Grant’s back that proved fatal.  The officer was tried for 1st degree murder and found guilty only of involuntary manslaughter.  Say what you will about the legal system in the US being the “best in the world,” but damn if it don’t seem like the consequences for taking the life of a young black male seem to be pretty insignificant to me – no wonder we kill each other at such a high clip.   

I’m just sayin…

Anyway, this may be THE timeliest film I’ve ever seen.  It is certainly one of the most poignant.  While there are things that could have been better from a writing and performance perspective that would have made this more compelling, it is far wiser not to take liberties when putting something like this on the big screen based on actual, non-ancient people with family and friends still around.  Certainly, I could have done with one or ten less utterances of the word “bruh” from Michael B Jordan, but maybe that’s how Oscar talked.  I don’t know how cats in the Bay area speak – maybe E-40 is a true and accurate representative, fo’ shiggadale.  Then again, maybe Jordan or Coogler had a few too many brehs/brush in the dialogue.  Maybe the film could have ended on a less “artsy” note… Tough call.  Notwithstanding the minor oddities that reminded me that this was a movie, I could not help but think that Fruitvale Station may be the most important movie I’ve seen in a long time.  Up next in the list of potential usurpers to that title is Lee Daniel’s The Butler (as long as he doesn’t go all Precious on us, it should be a great film, too).

I couldn’t have been more tempted to tear up during a film - between the still moment immediately after that shot was fired and the reaction when the doctors tell the family and friends of Oscar that he’s gone… the verisimilitude was crazy, man.  I saw this film at the Angelika Theatre (so there are only between 5-8 other brown people in any of the theatres at any given time) and there were about 2 dry eyes in the house… maybe 3, assuming the guy I saw with the eye-patch was in the same theater as me.  Seriously, damn near the whole theatre got more than a little verklempt.  (Trying to keep it light or I’ll get angry… I mean Incredible Hulk style angry.) This film does a terrific job of being fair and balanced in the anti-Fox News sense of the phrase.  That makes it that much more impressive. 

There’s no way I fail to add this film to my DVD collection when it hits the stores.  You really should find your way to seeing this film at some point in your life.  In the theatre, on-demand, streaming, on DVD or digital download.  Cop this. 
ImTHATdude gives Fruitvale Station:  5


5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

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