Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
For those like me that don’t have a constant mental database of all news, you may need a refresher before heading into “Fruitvale Station”. The movie is about an unarmed young adult who was shot on the early morning hours of New Year’s Day back in 2009 by the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. What makes this story unique is it was the first time nationally that I can recall where what transpired was caught on tape by many onlookers who had whipped out their cellphones. “Fruitvale Station” shows us it’s an event we shouldn’t forget.
Oscar Grant III (Jordan) is trying to change things around in a big way. Before the beginning of the New Year, we learn that Oscar is unfaithful with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), sells drugs, has almost been disowned by his mother Wanda Grant (Octavia Spencer) and finds himself lying to his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) to explain his jail time. Under the tattoos and gangster rap music blasting from his car, we see that he’s a good natured person. He’s kind hearted and truly hates the person he’s become. The movie shows us that he’s chosen his mother’s birthday to begin the process of changing his life around. Not everything goes smoothly, but even under the stress of everything not going his way, he still manages to remain positive.
If Jordan hasn’t been on anyone’s radar, he is now after this performance. It’s only been two years since “The Help”, but I’m sure Octavia Spencer will once again creating some Oscar buzz and adding a few more awards to her mantle. The dialogue, by first time writer and director Ryan Coogler, is crisp, genuine and honest. As director, he’s able to help the audience visualize the struggles of Oscar. Don’t be surprised if he needs to start working on a place to house his future awards. The most emotional scenes don’t feel forced and the events of unfold fluidly. Because this movie begins with the cellphone footage from that night, reminding us of what will happen. We’re never comfortable or calm as we watch Oscar pick up the pieces. There’s a slow building dread like a snake uncoiling before it strikes.
Coogler accomplishes the rare feat of letting us know what’s going to happen, but still packs a punch by the time the third act begins. So even though we know what’s going to happen, he still manages to piece together an engaging flick. We watch Oscar’s transformation and by the time the third act begins. We don’t want it to happen. We don’t want to see it again. We wish there was a different outcome. But there isn’t. The final minutes of the movie grip you and leave you speechless. The visual force of those lingering moments knocks the breath out of you.
You could easily walk out of this movie and say that it was created and pushed forth in-light of the Trayvon Martin case. I’d like to believe Coogler had more than agenda when sitting down to flesh out this retelling. It’s easy to create the parallels of good and evil, but I felt there was a more human message under all this. There’s a reason we spend so much time with Oscar, watching him interact and try to become a better person. If we are to learn anything from Oscar’s tale, it’s that your life can end at any moment, but most importantly, you should not take the time you’re given lightly. There’s always time to set things right.