‘Fruitvale Station’: As powerful as it gets

(older movie reviews with a new coat of paint)

It’s a rare feat when a movie is so well done and powerful that it forces you to take a walk after seeing it, thus delaying the rest of your day.  Sometimes, movies take a piece of you with them and hold onto it for dear life.  They make you ask yourself tough questions, rediscover why you love film, and look at other films like boys playing a man’s game.  Right as the summer heat kicks in, Fruitvale Station kicked down my door, snuck up inside my body, and bought real estate in my soul.   This true story tale will amaze, haunt and stick with you for days.  Truth be told, it will kick your ass.  When you see it, leave the Kleenex at home and wear the tears that shed from your eyes like a badge of honor.   There’s no shame in showing emotion for this poetic tragic tale of 22 year old Oscar Grant and the last day of 2008 in his world.

The Weinstein Company

Do yourself a favor and avoid reading about the details of this true story.  Writer/Director Ryan Coogler did the hard leg work, left nothing out, and gives you the visceral story in a quick moving tense 86 minutes.  This movie will hit harder if you know the end or not, but try to see it on fresh terms.  The best thing Coogler does here(except for creating an Oscar worthy movie, yes you heard that right) is he leaves the kool aide at home and just tells the story.

Grant is a 22 year old ex-con with a good soul and a violent streak who happens to be a doting son and a father of a young girl.   He is a self-inflicted guy trying to make things right before they go terribly wrong right before New Year’s Day.   A pirate trying to jump off the ship and play nice.  This movie takes you through an entire day in his life.  That is all I am giving you on the plot.  I don’t want to spoil anything else.

Michael B. Jordan(Chronicle and TV shows The Wire and Friday Night Lights) gives the kind of performance that will elevate his career from that face to a real name in the industry as he provides Oscar with a tender vulnerability but also shows a violent ability.  You can feel like the actor got inside the man’s skin and lived in it for a while to attain this kind of performance.  It’s one of those once in a lifetime roles and he knocks it out of the park.  You never see an actor here.

Coogler and Jordan don’t make Oscar angel because he wasn’t close, but they also show you his positive ways.  Diaz is a true young gun as the woman in Oscar’s life, the sad eyed woman who knows her man too well.   Spencer is award worthy as a mother torn between believing her son has changed and remembering what he has done.  She’s a revelation and the rest of the cast does a fine job of support.  Kevin Durand, a veteran character actor, has a small yet pivotal role as a cop who crosses paths with Oscar.  This is a film where the acting elevates a strong tale and makes it special to watch.

Fruitvale Station would have worked as a fictional tale but only gains poignancy and power as we come to realize it is play for play true.  Coogler deserves a strong recognition for his handling of a fragile story and for giving it everything it deserves.  This movie will get you talking one way or another and spark a conversation about human rights, police brutality and the way we carry our stereotypes in our back pocket.

This is a movie that you spread the word about because too many people won’t know a thing about it.  Spencer tells Oscar’s friends towards the end of the film that “we need to pick Oscar up right now. We need to pick him up and put him on our shoulders.” Fruitvale Station is a movie you leave and want to pick up and carry on your shoulders and conscience.  It owns a piece of you once it’s touched you.  It is the best film I have seen in 2013 and quite possibly longer than that.  See it for its authentic take on a real event and let the others tend to their summer action blockbuster business.

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