Classic Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Drama
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FRUITVALE

Oscar Grant (Michael B Jordan) is a 22 year-old Bay-area resident who is looking to have a happy New Year in 2009.  Oscar plans to take is girlfriend  Sophina, (Melonie Diaz) to San Francisco for New Year’s Eve.  He first plans to celebrate his mom Wanda’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday.  Oscar’s life is not easy, but he tries to take care of his little girl Tatiana.  (Ariana Neal) Oscar hopes he can enjoy his mother’s birthday, have fun on New Year’s Eve with his girlfriend and friends, and have a fresh start in the New Year.  But Oscar gets into a fight on the subway, police intervened, and Oscar was detained.  What happened next?

This is a gritty, harrowing, and ultimately heartbreaking story.  It is based on a true story, most movies that are based on a true story are usually highly embellished or whitewashed.  Oscar Grant was a complex person, and those complexities are fairly and adequately presented in this film. It is not a long movie, but by focusing on one day in Oscar Grant’s life, it really adds to the realistic feel of the film.  This is a must watch movie, especially in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson Missouri and the Eric Gardner chokehold in New York City.  This is as close to documentary filmmaking as Hollywood will allow.

The performances are superb.  Michael B. Jordan portrays Jordan as a concerned and loving father, and a loving and caring son and boyfriend.  But Oscar is no choir boy, and Jordan’s performance turns on a dime, it is outstanding acting.  Octavia Spencer gives such a heartfelt, genuine performance as Wanda.  She loves Oscar, but she is hard on him, because she’s seen his mistakes and doesn’t want him to repeat those mistakes.  Melonie Diaz gives a similarly gritty performance, she loves Oscar, and she wants him to realize his full potential.

The sparse, spare look and hand held camerawork is effective in this movie.  The scenes move quickly and efficiently to a compelling conclusion. Credit for the writing and direction goes to Ryan Coogler.  Here’s hoping that he gets more opportunities to show his talent.

Fruitvale Station:   A gripping true story, told well.

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