Friday, August 16, 2013

Fruitvale Station (2013)- Train-ing Day (3½ Stars)

Ryan Coogler wrote and directed the Sundance-prize winning Fruitvale Station, and much hype has been given. Does it deserve it all? Most definitely not. However, it is well-done retelling on an important event, which will offer a finite amount of timelessness.

Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar Grant III, a man living a routine life (despite the film's events taking place on New Year's Eve). Every New Year's Eve is important to Oscar, since it is the birthday of his mother. He showers, drops and picks up his daughter at daycare, meets his brother, deals some drugs... a routine day. The night, however, is different. He and his girlfriend Sophina plan to visit San Francisco bay to see the fireworks after his mother's birthday party. Something happens that changes everything.

Michael B. Jordan is quite good in the role, and has an extremely strong screen presence. Despite being rarely seen near the film's final quarter, he still feels present. The best performance is by Octavia Spencer as Oscar's mom. She feels motherly and natural for the part, and carries the final quarter almost single handedly. She manages to prove that her work in The Help was not a one-hit wonder.

I am pleased to say Coogler the director is excellent, as he handles the climatic station confrontation with immense ease and the right amount of suspense. However, Coogler the writer needs some work. His constant usage of New Year's Eve feels a bit contrived, and changes his depiction of Oscar as a saint near the end (despite seeing him deal drugs and manage an affair). Coogler also adds his own fictional situation involving a dog that seems, again, heavy-handed.

As a whole, though, Fruitvale Station is a movie that is pretty good. See it, but do know that this movie is not the masterpiece you may have been hearing about.

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