Just when you thought cops were becoming everybody’s heroes once again….
Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something odd in the air. He can’t quite put his finger on what it is really, but he thinks it’s a sign that he needs to stop from hustling and bustling ways, get clean, and start anew. This means being a better husband to his long-time gal-pal (Melonie Diaz), being the son his mother (Octavia Spencer) wants him to be, and best of all: always being there for his daughter when she needs him the most. Throughout this whole day, Oscar sees what his life was and what it could be if he puts his mind to it, but honestly, he isn’t too worried because it’s New Year’s Eve baby, and he wants to just have a good time. So good a time, that he eventually ends up getting shot and killed by two BART police officers in cold blood. Yup, so much for changes, right?
Now, for any of you peeps out there who may already be pissed that I just spoiled the hell out of this whole movie, cool your jets because not only does the last part of that synopsis happen in the first five minutes of the movie, but it’s also a true story, that you may or may not have heard about. I for one, never heard of this story, but apparently it caused plenty of havoc around the Bay Area and had the two cops involved, disbarred and put in jail (of course only to have one of them actually be released several months later), but that’s the real beauty of what this story is really all about: What happened that tragic night and figuring out the people/person behind it all. Of course we don’t know how much of this story is just pure speculation or what is actually what went down from dusk til dawn, but at the end of the day; Oscar Grant was a man who was wrongfully killed and will hopefully spark more and more debate about what’s wrong and what’s right, when it comes to what the police can and cannot use as protection.
Yep, it’s going to be one of those reviews. Get ready, baby.
Already, people are touting this as “this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild“, mostly in the sense that this too is a small movie that’s already making plenty of waves around the festival circuit. However, I don’t think it’s comparison really holds up as this is a movie that concerns something very real, honest, and frank with what it’s portraying, that it’s an honest wonder how this movie hasn’t already been made yet. Granted, the actual murder occurred four years ago, but in Hollywood time, all you need is a couple of months and weeks to get a script, director, cast, budget, and shooting-times locked and loaded for a movie to be made. Thankfully though, this wasn’t made or even really produced by Hollywood. It’s all indie, all the time and thank heavens for that because it makes you feel closer and closer to this story than you’d ever expect.
Oscar’s day isn’t a really eventful one, and that’s what makes this movie pretty damn unique. We pop right into his life without any real flashbacks (except for one key scene) or knowings of who this character is, and what everybody else he sees or meets means to him. We are just plopped right into the dude’s life and basically expected to follow in line with what he, and everybody else around him says, which is easy to do since he is so easy to like, even if he isn’t perfect. I have no real clue as to what type of person Oscar Grant was in real life, but from what this movie makes him out to be is that not only was he hustler, drug-dealer, and gang-banger, but he was also a pretty dedicated father that was there for his wife and kid. Sure, the dude messed up plenty-upon-plenty of times, but he still was there for them when they needed it the most.
However, all that I’m saying is mostly pure speculation as we don’t actually see what Oscar used to be like before this fateful day. But then again, we don’t need to because the movie seems to have already mapped-out enough info and details about this dude, his life, what he does, how he does it, and who he is as a person, which makes us care more and more for him as the story goes on. Drug dealers are bad news, no matter who the person may be, but Oscar makes you think that at the end of the day, he will do the right thing and that’s all that matters when you have a story as humane and honest as this one.
Bad news is, we know how the story ends and whether or not he does the right thing means jack shit, because the man died, and for what?
Which brings me to the idea of this movie: Why did Oscar have to die? As soon as the cops show up at the end of the story, we see Oscar and his buddies criticized for the sole reason that they are black and do believe me, it does not stop there. It gets worse and worse and worse, because it seems that these cops not only have authority problems that probably spur from the fact that their mommies and daddies didn’t love them enough when they were children. but they can’t handle a little disagreement between officers and “alleged” prisoners. However, it doesn’t matter what the reason may have been since it only makes wonder “why”, but also, “for what?”
Oscar Grant was a very troubled guy, but he was still a human that didn’t deserve to get his life taken away so quickly. Then again, nobody does and it’s just a shame that somebody who seemed to really be turning his life around or get involved with making right, had to suffer the consequences for something as stupid and idiotic as a slight scuffle on the subway. I’m not going to give away any further details, unless you don’t already know the story, but the final 30 minutes of this movie are probably some of the most tense I’ve had to go through the whole year so far. Hell, the movie’s like that the whole run-time because you know that no matter what Oscar does, no matter how much promises he makes to the people around him and no matter how long Oscar tries to keep up this get-up of being straight and cool that sadly, the man is going to be nothing more than just another man, wrongfully shot and killed for the sake of a bunch of misunderstandings. That whole feeling rests right in your stomach and has you feeling more and more emotion for Oscar and the story, as soon as the actual shooting actually shows up on-screen. And trust me, once it hits, it’s going to hit you bad, bad, bad. Just as it did to me and apparently, to everybody else in the theater surrounding me.
Don’t get taken away by this story though because as rich as the actual, real-life material may be, the discussion doesn’t quite smack your train-of-thought like it should. For instance, without giving too much away and being as vague as possible, the movie ends on a note that shows Oscar and what’s left of his family as they mourn his death, and it shows a tribute to a man that could have been you or me, but wasn’t. That’s all fine and dandy because Oscar’s story is one that’s meant to be heard loud and clear, but should also spark up some more discussion, which I don’t think this movie had the balls to do just yet. It does point fingers at the cops for being terribly over-zealous with the use of their weapons, but it doesn’t go much further than that. It shows the problem, what happened, how, and why, and leaves it that.
Not much more after that except for a couple of very upsetting scenes that tug on the heart-strings as much as you’ve heard (or may have not, I don’t know). And just like I said, that’s not a bad thing if you’re giving a movie to a real person’s story that’s meant for the big-screen, but there’s so much material and promise here to really capitalize on getting people talking, thinking, arguing, discussing, and getting on the backs of either sides. If the movie made that next step, we would have had a masterpiece on our hands, but it didn’t reach that pinnacle. Instead, it was a nice feature flick about a man who’s life was not just a tragic one, but a real one that anybody on this Earth could have lived as well, it’s just sad it had to end the way it did.
Very, very sad indeed.
Once again though, who Oscar Grant really was is really all up in the air because the movie only uses speculation and what I hope was actual testimony from friends and family alike. Well that, and also Michael B. Jordan’s amazing portrayal of him that is sure as hell going to get him some real deserved Oscar buzz. Jordan is great as Grant because he shows the guy in many ways, all of which seem realistic enough to be taken in as actual fact, even if we don’t know if it’s fact or fiction or just a person reading a script and going with whatever emotion comes first. Whatever it may have been for Jordan, it sure as hell worked since this performance is nothing short of perfection, in the way that he’s able to make us feel something, anything, for this guy regardless of what he does throughout the day.
As I stated before, Grant wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a person nonetheless and showed promise for being an understandable and trustworthy husband, father, as well as a friend. Jordan never loses sight of making this real-life person, anything else but realistic and for that, I really do want to see this guy get a nomination of some sorts come February next year. I know, I know, I know! It’s early as heck for that type of talk, but with the buzz this movie’s been getting: I can actually see it happening. Fingers crossed, people!
Melonie Diaz is also great as his girlfriend of many, many years as she knows who Oscar is and doesn’t always stand for his shit, but at least still knows that he’s a good enough man that she’ll stick with him at the end of the day. She’s a very realistic woman, and one that every man sure as hell hopes to be with at the end of the day. Octavia Spencer plays Oscar’s mommy and shows the same type of emotions that Diaz shows in the way that she knows who Oscar truly is, but still loves him no matter what. The scenes these two have together are not only raw, but very emotional in that you can see how these two would still stick by one another, no matter how far off-track the other one went. But above all, I’m just happy that the lady has gotten a role that’s worthy of her Oscar-winning role two years ago. Never thought it’d come around, but thankfully, it did in the form of this movie and this role.
Lastly, we have Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray as the two cops involved with Oscar’s death and this is where the slope gets a tad bit slippery. Both are good with their short run-time they have on-screen, but in order for the movie to make them feel substantial enough to pay clear enough attention to and continue to think about even until this day, they needed more time and more material to work with. I get it: The movie is more concerned with Oscar’s side of the story, as it’s obviously clear he was the one who was wronged, but what about the cops themselves? Did they do anything wrong or were they just doing their job? Or hell, if you think about it, could you blame them for accidentally killing Oscar? The questions that I just made up were ones that the movie could have definitely went with and totally hit the nail on it’s head, but it didn’t go that far. And I’m all for rooting for the one who was the victim, but there could have been further development and discussion on the other side. Then again, there may have not been all that much to deal with, so I might just be making shit up that’s non-existent.
All I will say is that if you hated Chad Michael Murray before, you’re going to hate him even more now. Damn you, Lucas Scott!
Consensus: Many people will feel plenty of countless emotions during and/or after watching Fruitvale Station, most of which are deserved, but something still tells me that there is an argument to be made here that still hasn’t been brought to the lime light for all to see, prey on, and devour. Maybe that will come around once people actually see it, but until then: I wait and I wait.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!