Monday, July 29, 2013

'Fruitvale Station': A Passionate and Important Film

Fruitvale Station infuriated me.  I don't want anyone to think that the movie itself is bad, or that I am angry because I didn't like it.  The performances are strong, but the incident on which this is based only angers me the more I think about it.  The film lingers in my brain after seeing it a few days ago. 

Ryan Coogler's Station follows the last day of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22 year old Oakland, California resident who was shot by police officers on New Year's Eve in 2008.  While traveling home from New Year's festivies, Grant becomes involved in a fight on a crowded BART train.  Police officers responded to the fight reports and Grant was shot on the Fruitvale Station platform after a heated fight with officers.  Many witnesses filmed the incident on their cell phones, and the footage became a sensation. 

Coogler's film tells the story of Grant's last day.  We are firstly introduced to Grant and his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz).  She's concerned that he will be unfaithful to her, but he assures her that he wants to take care of her and their daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal).  By the way, their daughter might be the cutest little girl ever.  Watch out Quvenzhane Wallis!!!  Octavia Spencer plays Grant's mother, Wanda. 

At the time of his death, Grant was trying to turn his life around.  He had been in prison twice, and he didn't want to return to selling drugs on the street.  As I followed him through his day, I felt like things would turn out differently.  I wanted them too so badly.  Despite all the negative qualities that people could focus on (recently out of prison, unemployed, etc.), I really liked him even though I just "met" him.  Michael B. Jordan's quiet performance really got to me.  I loved the scenes between Oscar and Tatiana.  There is a gentleness that really rang true. 

His relationship with Wanda, however, is more complicated.  Wanda's birthday falls on New Year's Eve, a fact that only darkens a mother's tragedy.  Spencer makes Wanda a very understanding presence at the beginning of the film.  She clearly loves her son, and there is a great scene between them when Station flashes back to a scene where Wanda visits Oscar in prison. 

Coogler opens the film with the actual cell phone footage of the incident.  It feels voyeuristic, and it looms over the rest of the film.  It's weird how our culture can capture such things now, and it can get hundreds of hits on YouTube.  Station is small and feels personal, but the themes resonate in a large way. 

While on the subject of small,  Fruitvale Station is something that deserves to be seen.  I saw the above standee shoved into a small corner.  Why not have such a small advertisement on the box office counter to let customers notice it?  

Go see it.  

No comments:

Post a Comment