FRUITVALE STATION: THE REVIEW

I got to attend this screening last week with friend, Tobias, following some yummy noodles at the Sydney Night Noodle Market, I had been so excited to see this film ever since I had heard about it. Forest Whitaker was a producer so I was sold, Michael B. Jordan was amazing in CHRONICLE and everyone always raves about how I must see THE WIRE (OK OK it is on my list). The story looked like it had a lot of heart and was gritty and it also had Octavia Spencer, who just owned THE HELP. It had won numerous awards and was under the radar in Australia, it was going to be great!

 

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FRUITVALE STATION: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant.

 

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FRUITVALE STATION: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

So that was the official synopsis put out by The Weinstein Company and I agree with it to some extent. Firstly I should explain that I truly enjoyed this film for being different, for being gritty, for being raw, for the amazing direction and acting, the heart that the film has, the emotional roller coaster the film is, for its themes on making amends and becoming better, for overcoming adversity. But I never got that Oscar woke up and felt something in the air. I got that he was always on the path of trying to improve himself but overcoming ones self is a battle I loathe and regularly face demons like this daily. People love to compromise with themselves and justify the negative. You can see how Oscar battles with his old and new selves and I loved this.

 

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FRUITVALE STATION: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

Writer and director Ryan Coogler delivers an exceptionally crafted debut with Fruitvale Station, his ability to make every character important, real, somewhat flawed and yet imperative to the story was a nice talent. From Oscar to Sophina to Wanda to the lady in the supermarket – they all had an amazing part in telling us this story and of getting into the mind of Oscar. The film builds and builds with little to no purpose besides the conclusion in a slice of life re-creation that explodes with meaning and what I would describe as a “farewell film”. The film makes out as though Oscar knew what was coming, and this was his way of saying goodbye to everyone. If you know the real life story you know the outcome of the film but this no way detracts from the tension surrounding the film. As for the acting, they are all amazing – period – I do not need to go into individual details – it was an amazingly casted piece of work. One character I wanted to mention – a small character, that of the policeman that shot Oscar, he was played by Chad Michael Murray – I used to love this guy so much in TV show ONE TREE HILL, did not recognise him at all in this film, I was stunned to read his name in the credits.

 

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FRUITVALE STATION: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

Now, the negatives, I have two negatives. One of them is that while this film is an amazingly told “farewell film” it is quite glossy in its explanation of Oscar. What happens to Oscar is horrific and unforgivable but was Oscar such an angel? I know he was trying desperately to be so and the film concentrated a lot on his struggle, but was Oscar truly like this in real life? We will never know. I mean the scene with the dog? Was this necessary or more in vain of putting rose coloured lenses on Oscar. It is a beautiful film that will warm the hearts of all while at the same time crush it, and something Oscar’s family can truly be proud of. A fitting epilogue to a troubled life that was cut short mid story.

 

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FRUITVALE STATION: THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW

 

The other negative was my experience I had during the film. As mentioned we ate from the noodle market prior to the film, I also ordered an apple juice from the candy bar before we went in and I remember Tobias read the bottle and said “if I drank that I would be up all night” – I assume it was high in caffeine – something I do not drink much of. Combine that with me watching my first film wearing glasses, a bonus of my ageing 🙂 Now the film is shot with hand helds and is quite jumpy with quite a few focus pulls. I honestly felt nauseous for the first time I have watched a film, I have been racking my brain as to the cause and can only assume it was a combination of everything. I was highly anxious watching most of the film, the film builds and builds and you know where it is heading, but combine this with caffeine, new glasses and jumpy camera work and it effected me physically to the negative. Did anyone reading this experience any similar feelings due to the camera work. I have watched literally tens of thousands of films and never felt this before.

Negatives aside this is a truly well made film. It ticks many boxes in the positive and I recommend it. It cleaned up at Sundance Film Festival this year winning both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. It is out this coming THUR NOV 7th at most art house cinemas, is rated M, and runs for 85mins.

 

4 Pops