I was posed with a question about two weeks ago, “What movie defines your generation?” What was I suppose to answer with? I was looking for a film that would have an impact like “Boys n the Hood”, “Menace to Society”, or even “Friday.” Those movies are almost 20 years old now, it is a opportune time for a film to fill that “coming of age” void. Upon request, I found exactly what I was looking for in Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station.”
Who would have thought that an independent film with a small budget and minimal resources could produce such an emotion provoking product? “Fruitvale Station” is director-writer Ryan Coogler’s first feature-length project. Although Michael B. Jordan is no stranger to the cameras this is his first lead role in a major film. Jordan is best known for his supporting roles in the television shows “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wire.” Most of the cast is an amalgamation of little-known actors and actresses; however, a surprising performance is given by Octavia Spencer, the recent Oscar winning actress for her supporting role in “The Help.” Coogler has even commented on his disbelief and surprise in her commitment to his film, especially due to its low stature amongst larger studio productions. She is even credited with helping with the budget for the film. I would be wrong to omit mention of Forest Whitaker’s support in the film’s production. I don’t know whether to say the film has exceeded its expectations or rather it has lived up to all it was meant to be. “Fruitvale Station” was awarded the top two awards at the Sundance Film Festival along with the “Best Film” award at the Cannes Festival.
As a viewer there were a couple of things that stuck out to me. The gut-wrenching, last 30 minutes of the film comprised of the anticipation of Oscar Grant’s looming fate coupled with the priceless on-screen performance by Michael B. Jordan, which had all the makings of a classic dramatic film. I think most viewers can agree that while watching the film you expect Oscar to resort to his old ways and cheat on his girlfriend or use narcotics. Despite those expectations Oscar continues to face the common woes of the everyday man. Struggles to raise his daughter, pay his bills, and find employment are all imminent. The difference is for the first time in Oscar Grant’s life he is searching for a way to solve those problems the “right” way. I think the biggest selling point for this film is that it is one of the most genuine portrayals of a 22 year old Black man to date. This portrayal consists of near spot on language, music, and even the problems and conflictions he faces. I know this phrase is being a little over played but it remains true nonetheless, I feel like Oscar Grant “could have been me,” or any of my friends for that matter, and I believe most viewers feel the same way. I have never been as emotionally invested in any film like I was while viewing “Fruitvale Station.”
Although this film will be praised for some time we must remember there were key details omitted or dramatized. There are also many parts that were clearly inserted for you to further sympathize with Grant. Regardless, Oscar Grant loss his life unjustly and the million dollar question is “what will you do about it?” This film is not meant to be a spark for rioting or violent protesting but instead we should allow this film to inspire us to continue to strive for greatness. All I can do is suggest some people to see it, but in fact every one of all shapes, colors, and sizes need to watch this powerful film.
Written by: Jerron Wheeler/USD2R
Photo by: Weinstein Films