By: Melissa Berne
I now know why Fruitvale Station got the praises it did at Sundance. And that two days later, it got its distribution deal through The Weinstein Company for $2 million. I loved it. A movie noted for its truth-based plot, Fruitvale hits you right in the gut.
The story follows the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life. You may or may not remember his name, but his altercation at Fruitvale Station was made public in 2009 when he was fatally shot by a police officer.
Michael B. Jordan plays Grant with such conviction and vulnerability, and Octavia Spencer plays his mother, a no-nonsense yet protective woman. Melonie Diaz also stars as Grant’s girlfriend/mother of his daughter.
For me, it’s hard to acquire my interest in something if I already know how it’s going to end. But director and writer Ryan Coogler tells a thoughtful tale so beautifully and so honest that you almost push aside the impending doom and really get to see this factual character live. In the film, we see simple things like Oscar jamming to hip-hop music in his car, taking his daughter to school and helping a stranger pick the right fish to fry from the market. What’s interesting about Coogler’s interpretation is that we not only see Oscar’s kindness and good heart, but we also see that Oscar isn’t all that perfect either. The movie opens up with him and his girlfriend having an argument over his unfaithfulness, him lying about losing his job, and we soon learn about his drug-wriggling habits.
Noting parts of Oscar’s characteristics that don’t always present him in the best light in the movie, and having the pre-conceived knowledge of his demise doesn’t make the result any less devastating. It’s like what actress Melonie Diaz said to me when we were discussing the film, “Even though you already know what’s going to happen, you don’t want it to.” The emotions that the film evokes says something about the message. No, it’s not just a demonstration of police brutality. It’s more about what the media doesn’t cover. Usually, the media highlights a report with a picture of someone, then it doesn’t get much coverage after that, and most people forget about it by the next week. We never get to see what kind of person it is that died. We never get to see what they cared about. We never get to see their interactions with their enemies or friends. We don’t really get to understand them. And it’s because they’re not here to speak for themselves. We won’t ever get to know them. Thankfully, Coogler takes it upon himself to shed light on the human being behind the coverage report.
Biggest praises for this film go to Ryan Coogler for putting a lot of thought and care into it. That goes from writing this script to pulling the stuff that dreams are made of out of Michael B. Jordan. Seriously, Jordan’s last glare on screen will pull your heartstrings.
Fruitvale Station lets you in Oscar’s grimy reality, but also his heart. It also depicts the notion of what fear and anger can do to someone. It’s easy to think “Oh, it’s just another example of asshole cops.” However, in the end, it leaves you thinking that anyone is capable of just about anything. You don’t know who you are until you’re confronted with fear. The film shows a very specific story that will educate some, anger some or even offend some. Nonetheless, it has a message that is undeniably relevant and very important.
Watch Fruitvale Station when it hits theaters July 12th, and bring a friend with you! View the trailer below: