If Beale Street Could Talk is a romantic drama directed and written by Barry Jenkins, based on James Baldwin’s 1969 novel of the same name. It follows a young African-American woman who, with her family’s support, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly charged lover and prove his innocence before the birth of their child. There’s been lots of marketing of this movie, beware of over zealous advertising! Still, I liked the film.
Clementine “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James) have been friends their entire lives. As children, they did everything together, from taking baths to playing in the streets. As adults, they enter a romantic relationship together and hold a bond between them that can’t be broken. After deciding to get married, they struggle to find a place to live as most landlords refuse to rent apartments to black people. Eventually they found a place in a warehouse that is in the process of being converted to an apartment building. Levy (Dave Franco), the Jewish landlord, agrees to rent it to them at a reasonable rate due to the fact that he enjoys seeing couples in love, regardless of their race.
**** SOME SPOILERS ****
One night, when Tish is shopping at a predominately White grocery store, she is harassed by a White man. When he begins to assault her, Fonny physically throws the man out of the store. Officer Bell (Ed Skrein), who was nearby witnesses the incident but because of his racist background, attempts to arrest Fonny. Bell reluctantly lets Fonny go when the lady who runs the grocery store vouches for the couple. Soon after the incident, Fonny is arrested for raping a Hispanic woman, despite the fact that it would have been virtually impossible for Fonny to travel from the scene of the crime to the apartment where he was arrested. The case against Fonny is considered strong due to Officer Bell’s testimony, who says the he saw Fonny fleeing the scene plus Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), the victim, picks him out of a line-up then disappears after identifying Fonny as her rapist. Tish, as well as Fonny’s friend, Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry), were with Fonny and would be his alibi at the time of the rape, but their testimony isn’t considered reliable due to Tish’s romantic relationship with Fonny, and Daniel’s previous conviction for grand theft auto (despite his claim to not even know how to drive a car).
While the film is dealing with the most delicate of matters, it doesn’t give any closure to the story. If Beale Street could Talk opens at the apartment where the Rivers family live. A routine family dinner is taking place, showing the closeness of the family and their status in the community. Learning of Tish’s pregnancy, they decide to invite Fonny’s family over to share the news. The scene gets down right hilarious as insults and accusations fly between the two families. Tish’s mother, Sharon Rivers (Regina King) has a way of showing her feelings through a series of facial expressions that would scare off most but then speaks in the most kind and soft voice that would make most melt. Tish’s father, Joseph Rivers (Coleman Domingo) is funny and supportive. Their story is heart felt and is worthy of anger directed at a tiresome racial problem that makes no sense. The saddest part, is we are still experiencing racism at the highest level and still we struggle to rise above it, tell our stories and suffer in hopes the problem ends before the world perishes. Hate is a terrible thing and we could achieve so much more without it. I enjoyed If Beale Street Could Talk, I just think it was a little over marketed. Despite the appearance of a low budget the performances were quite believable, the story has much more to offer so Check it Out!
[If Beale Street Could Talk is Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score]
Posted in DVD MOVIE REVIEWS, STREAMING
Tagged adrienne hunt, alonzo "fonny" hunt, annjanue ellis, clemtine "tish" rivers, coleman domingo, dave franco, diego luna, dominique thorne, ebony obsidian, ed skrein, emily rios, ernestine rivers, fin wittrock, frank hunt, hayward, if beale street could talk, joseph rivers, kiki layne, levy, michael beach, milanni mines, officer bell, pedro pascal, pedrocito, pietro alvarez, regina king, sharon rivers, sheila hunt, stephan james, teyonah parris, victoria rogers
Birth of a Nation is a history lesson that can leave you pretty emotionally drained. This version of Nat Turner’s rebellion against White slave owners is based on a true story and takes place between 1800 and 1831. While there is much controversy surrounding the facts in this movie, one thing is certain, there is lots of blood shed, hate and injustice. Nat Turner (Nate Parker) was a legendary slave because he was perceived as special among his people with special traits and markings that he was expected to live up to. How much truth there is to that perception is anyone’s guess but there was no denying that Nat had above average intelligence and skills. He learned to read and studied the Bible at an early age, taught by his master’s mother, Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller) for the purpose of becoming a preacher.
As the movie progresses, one gets the impression that the master, Samuel “Sam” Turner (Armie Hammer) owner of the plantation where Nat Turner lived as a slave, was somewhat liberal and a better master to his slaves than most. There comes a point in the film that you will learn differently. Sam was not as financially lucrative as most plantation owners and began slowly losing his position in society. After accepting an offer from the local preacher, Rev. Walthall (Mark Boone Junior) to get paid for taking Nat around to other plantations to preach to unsettled slaves, it became clear Sam and Nat’s relationship started to change. In the meantime, Nat married a slave girl he had urged Sam to purchase named Cherry Turner, (Aja Naomi King) who eventually ended up residing at a nearby plantation along with Nat’s mother, Bridget Turner (Esther Scott) and their baby girl. Hark Turner (Coleman Domingo), Nat’s closest friend, was first to engage in a marriage celebration to a slave girl named Esther (Gabrielle Union). Esther was also first to experience a violent rape, leaving the biter taste of rage with Hark for which there was nothing he could do anything about. Soon after, Nat’s wife experienced the same fate, only this time it was a gang rape and a beating so severe, Cherry was practically unrecognizable. This is what has caused controversy since history bears no proof Cherry was ever raped. Because Nate Parker wrote, produced and directed this version of Birth of A Nation, critics feel he based Nat Turner’s attack against White slave owners on a rape that never happened. Also, according to history, Nat Turner’s confessions were significantly relevant but was left out of the movie.
As usual, I must stop here because I don’t want to divulge any more spoilers. In my opinion, you need a strong constitution to see Birth of a Nation, it’s not for the weak at heart. There is excessive violence, injustices, murders, graphic slanderers and more. Despite any embellishments, the ugly, horrible, racist, truths are shown and go down as a part of history that cannot be undone. Perhaps the knowledge of Birth of a Nation will resonate with those who bother to go and see it. Learning from our mistakes will keep us from repeating them. Nat’s mother spoke about Nat’s father in the movie saying “I’m glad he didn’t live to see a grown man broke down — it’s a terrible thing to see!” I think Birth of a Nation is a must see, especially in these times of unrest.
Posted in DVD MOVIE REVIEWS
Tagged aja naomi king, armie hammer, birth of a nation, bridget turner, cherry turner, coleman domingo, elizabeth turner, esther scott, esther turner, gabrielle union, hark turner, mark boone junior, nat turner, nate parker, penelope ann miller, rev walthall, samuel turner