The not guilty conclusion to the George Zimmerman trial, Don Lemon’s co-signing of Bill O’Reilly, and Paula Deen’s racial treatment/outbursts with employees have gotten America in discussion into the preconceived notion of race. With all of this swirling around in the air it was very uncanny that Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station was finally theatrically released.
Fruitvale Station revolves around a day in the life of Oscar Grant who was shot in the back and killed by a Bay Area Transit Association (BART) policeman on New Year’s morning. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan (remember Wallace from The Wire?) as Oscar Grant and Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother (from the critically acclaimed film The Help). This film had made the rounds of all the film festivals (Sundance and Cannes) and was getting great accolades for the story told and the way it was shot.
Have you ever saw a film where you knew the main characters demise while watching the film? You beg and plead with yourself that the main character makes another decision or takes a different turn that they do not end up in the predicament they will ultimately become a part of. The film starts out with the actually amateur camera footage of Oscar being shot by the BART police officer so even if you came into this movie not knowing Oscar’s demise you knew of the jump that this wasn’t going to end well.
The beauty of this film is its ability to pull you into Oscar’s life and his relationship with his daughter, girlfriend, mother, and family. You find yourself in Fruitvale Station trying to not get emotionally invested in this day in Oscar’s life because you know how this story ends.
One of the reasons that I appreciate this film was because Ryan Coogler in his depiction of Oscar doesn’t portray or make him look like a Saint. Coogler shows his flaws as a man from infidelity, irresponsibility, and criminal activity. The movie is an ultimate arch of a character and a man where his ability to be shown as a flawed young man makes the viewer empathize with his character even more than you did before. Oscars’ tale was woven in many ways like a Shakespearean tragedy. The audience sees Oscar’s transformation right in front of their eyes but no that all the changes he is making will be for nothing.
This film was the first film in a long time (maybe ever) that I saw grown ass men and women frozen in their seats sobbing and crying for minutes after the credits rolled. You sit there getting trapped into Oscar story as he is attempting to make strides to make his relationships with his daughter, girlfriend, and mother stronger. You can’t help bit cheer for Oscar’s redemption and the pain of his ultimate demise can be too much.
I joked before about how most people will go into this film not evening knowing it is about the Oscar Grant case that had much of the West Coast and many people upset a few years ago. I actually believe that this is something that gave Oscar’s life and this film more credence because the viewer in their ignorance can get a chance to see Oscar as a man looking for something better for his life and his family.
Many cases people look at some people’s lives and judge what is this person’s life worth (*cough* Trayvon Martin). This usually comes from a person detachment from the person and not having anything they can relate to themselves. Fruitvale Station does a great job of not letting you off the hook of just turning your blind eye to Oscar’s life. At the film’s conclusion you now know Oscar. You understand his pain, his happiness, his struggle, and his triumphs. You are now invested into this young black man’s life like many of the people in the Oakland area who were upset about how his young life was lost.
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