Fruitvale Station (2013)
Cast includes: Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights), Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Ahna O’Reilly (The Help)
Writer/Director: Ryan Coogler (first feature film)
Genre: Drama based on actual events (85 minutes)
New Year’s Day 2009… “Come on man! What about protect and serve? It’s fucked up… Let him go.” That’s when the shot is fired, and we see and hear everything on actual cellphone video. It’s true… Oscar Grant was no angel. The day before begins with a lover’s quarrel about “that bitch.” “Just that one time,” Oscar says. “You got caught just that one time,” says Sophina. “That shit’s over with. From now on, it’s you and T (Tatiana)… forever.” Sophina can never resist Oscar when he get’s serious and talks about forever. T loves her dad, too… not just because he secretly gives her extra snacks when he drops her off at kindergarten.
Today is Oscar’s mom’s birthday, and he’s picking up crabs for the gumbo. At Farmer Joe’s market, Oscar visits with his friend at the fish counter. When Katie, another shopper, can’t figure out what kind of fish to buy for a fish fry, Oscar volunteers help by calling his Grandma Bonnie for fish frying tips. While Katie’s on Oscar’s cellphone with Grandma Bonnie, Oscar catches up with the manager to ask for his old job back. He was fired for being late, and the manager has already hired someone else. That’s the way it’s always been with Oscar… he has a big heart, he’s personable but he’s short on discipline. Lately, 22-year-old Oscar has been reflecting on some of the things that have gotten him into trouble in the past. He always says he’s going to turn over a new leaf, but next year… “I’m not going to fuck up for 30 days. That’s how long Oprah says it takes to form a habit.” After Mom’s birthday dinner, Oscar, Sophina and friends are heading into San Francisco to watch the fireworks. Mom knows they’re going to be drinking, so she encourages them to take the train, instead of driving. That way, they’ll be safe.
T doesn’t really want to stay with her cousins. “I’ll be back before you wake up,” Oscar tells her. We already know, that’s not going to happen. Most of this film is quite mundane and ordinary… it paints a picture of Oscar, his friends and family… ordinary people dealing with ordinary life’s issues. Yet, it’s a powerful story because this ordinary day turns so horribly wrong without warning… and the filmmakers let the strength of the story stand on its own. If there weren’t cellphone video of the actual event, we might wonder if the incident had been overdramatized for cinematic effect. But the cellphone video is possibly the most damning footage in the whole movie. It’s hard to deny the police brutality. At the hospital, Oscar’s friends are ready to explode with anger, but Oscar’s mom is always the rock. As Oscar fights for his life in the hospital, she pleads for them to stay focused. “We’ve got to lift him up, y’all. Lift Oscar up.” If only she hadn’t asked him to take the train…
4 popped kernels
Police brutality at the Fruitvale Station ends badly when a shot is fired… this film shows the whole tragic day
Rated: R (Language, violence)
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Amateur video
Primary Driver: Character development
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought provoking