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Fruitvale Station
Click for full sized poster

Fruitvale Station

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand
Based on a true story
Written and Directed by Ryan Coogler

IN SHORT: Nothing but possibility, unrealized. [Rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use. 84 minutes]

Yet another "based on a true story" story . . . One in which a one time, very low level San Francisco area based weed dealer named Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) has his epiphany moment.  Oscar had done time in San Quentin prison, which nearly cost him the love of his very disappointed mother their daughter (Octavia Spencer). Term up and fences mended, Oscar is now settled in to play house with girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal). The fake wife doesn't know that Oscar had been fired from his straight job. The lure of dope dealing to support the family is rearing its ugly head.

Then comes the epiphany, a moment which is not nearly as big as it should be. Unless, of course, said moment is something that need not be explained to any person in the African-American community. That would mean that dumb white critics like Cranky are left out thinking, "the script isn't properly focussed."

Said Epiphany Moment when the boy becomes the man and said man, and the man leaves drug dealing behind forever. Before that can happen, though, there are New Year's revelries to enjoy -- beginning with birthday festivities for his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer), followed by a night out watching fireworks with his girl and their friends. Wanda tells her son to "take the train" into San Francisco, to see fireworks. She doesn't want son to get busted on a drunk driving charge.

That train ride brings Oscar face to face with a villain from his past time in San Quentin, where black gangs and white gangs still face off. On the train, there is a confrontation. There is a fight and cops are called. Simply put, and this was in the papers for a long time so we're not spilling anything, the cops round up the black participants in the fight. The white participants slip away on the next train and  Oscar is shot dead by transit cops for not staying seated when told to.

There's much more to Fruitvale Station than that. The events of this film were as all over the media as the current trial in Florida (currently is) and -- just as with the OJ Simpson trial -- all are racially polarized.

If I were African-American, I might have come out of my screening of Fruitvale Station with a "you see? you see!!??" reaction; the kind that comes with living in a culture that automatically assumes that you are in the wrong because of the color of your skin. But I'm not an African-American. My preference would have been to see the events of Fruitvale Station incorporated in a lawyer movie, in which some lawyer in a slick suit rips a pair of Nazi-ish thug cops to shreds for "mistaking" the feel of a taser grip for a gun grip -- oh yes, it's a wrongful death movie but, more important, it is one of those movies with an epiphany moment that basically comes out of nowhere and (whose story) really doesn't allow said epiphany to deliver some enervating result.

Fruitvale Station is the kind of film that, if you are of the sort that likes to view serious films and then go out and discuss the merits of said films over espresso or cappuccino afterwards, you are going to have a terrific time in the dark.

We don't write for that kind of audience.

We spent virtually all of our time in the dark wondering when Fruitvale Station would get a grip on its story. Not that we had problems with the performances, all of which built something resembling a proper film reality, all the while failing to interest us in any of it.

The events of Fruitvale Station are racially polarizing enough that no one is going to be happy with the standard dollar rating. Black readers will see a story of a man who could have fallen into gangsta life (sic) but didn't and then was wrongfully murdered by cops who didn't get much of a sentence for "murder".  White audiences will see a story of a potential gangsta who chooses not to take that road (a good thing) but who doesn't know to shut the hell up when cops - even if said cops are behaving like Nazi thugs, which they are in this portrayal - tell him to. (We) want to see some lawyer rip those cops to shreds for the stupidity of their excuse -- they couldn't tell the difference between the grip of their taser and the grip of their service pistols.

An innocent young man dies instead and, yeah, that gives the story away. Fruitvale Station will affect an audience depending on that audience's background and yours Cranky is not stupid enough to get in the middle of that fight.

I have said what I have to say. Figure out if you should see it.


amazon com link Click to buy films by Ryan Coogler
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.