Full Review: IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (USA 2018) **

If Beale Street Could Talk Poster
Trailer

Director:

Barry Jenkins

Writers:

Barry Jenkins (written for the screen by), James Baldwin (based on the book by)

Beale Street is a street in New Orleans, the audience is told at the start of the film, where the story of the film is set and the place where Louis Armstrong was born.

The follow-up to his first Oscar Winner for Best Picture MOONLIGHT, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK sees one again the victimized black in a prejudiced light.  

Based on the book by James Baldwin, the film follows a 19-year old  woman fighting to free her falsely accused husband from prison before the birth of their child. If Beale Street could talk, the truth would have been revealed in the events that occurred and the husband set as a free man.

 Tish (KiKi Layne) is only 19 but she is been forced to grow up fast. She is left pregnant by Fonny (Stephan James), the man she loves. But Fonny is going to prison for a crime he did not commit, due to, as clearly emphasized in the film by a racist white redneck cop.  As the film begins, Tish must break the news to her family, and his. Tish’s mother, (Regina King), soon must decide how far she will go to secure her daughter’s future.  The announcement makes the film’s best segment, the target of attack being overzealous Christianity.  Fonny’s religious mother curses Tish’s baby hoping it to be born withered only to be slapped hard by her husband, in one of the film’s more energetic moments.  But nothing more is heard from Fonny’s mother, who is undoubtedly the story’s most interesting character – the one one loves to hate, and an easy target.

For a film with such a fiery plot, Jenkins’ film is extremely slow-paced, sometimes unintentionally funny with many segments plain dragging along.  One example is a 3-minute sequence where Tish’s mother tries on a wig, looking in the mirror for a while only to finally take it off when meeting the rape victims, the purpose of which is never made clear.  One could probably fault the source material for there is hardly any surprise in the story, quite unlike Jenkins’ last film, but Jenkins does not allow his actors or his camerawork to perform as freely as in MOONLIGHT.  The film also shifts uncomfortably among three subjects, Tish, her mother and Fonny.  Anoher sequence shows prison visit where Fonny is visited by Tish.  He has clearly been beaten up (red eyes, swollen lip and cut), but Tish never questions him about it or the incident raised.

Tish and her mother display characters, too perfect to be believable.  Toronto’s own James at least displays a more credible Fonny with human flaws, angry at society and also angry at times at his wife.

It is odd that Jenkin’s style in BEALE STREET and MOONLIGHT is totally different.  MOONLIGHT was original and looked improvised while BEALE STREET looks extremely and staged.

An interesting subplot involves the family’s young Jewish lawyer.  His sincerity in the case is questionable but not dealt with in depth.

Flawed, but IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is still steps better than the awful THE HATE U GIVE!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMlRasKEu84

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TIFF 2018 Review: IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (USA 2018)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

If Beale Street Could Talk Poster
Trailer

A woman in Harlem desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child.

Director:

Barry Jenkins

Writers:

Barry Jenkins (written for the screen by), James Baldwin (novel)

The follow-up to his first Oscar Winner for Best Picture MOONLIGHT, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK sees one again the victimized black in a prejudiced light.  Based on the book by James Baldwin, the film follows a 19-year old  woman fighting to free her falsely accused husband from prison before the birth of their child.   

Tish (KiKi Layne) is only 19 but she is been forced to grow up fast. She is left pregnant by Fonny (Stephan James), the man she loves. But Fonny is going to prison for a crime he did not commit, due to, as clearly emphasized in the film by a racist white redneck cop.  For a film with such a fiery plot, Jenkins’ film is extremely slow-paced, sometimes unintentionally funny with many segments plain dragging along.   

One could probably fault the source material for there is hardly any surprise in the story, quite unlike Jenkins’ last film, but Jenkins does not allow his actors or his camerawork to perform as freely as in MOONLIGHT.  The film also shifts uncomfortably among three subjects, Tish, her mother and Fonny.

 Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp9cyhARz6U&vl=en

Movie Review: RACE (2016) Directed by Stephen Hopkins

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raceRACE (Germany/France/Canada 2016) ***
Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Stars: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt

Review by Gilbert Seah

The word RACE of the film title could mean the running competition or a people of the world. Stephen Hopkin’s biographical sports drama tells both the story of African American athlete Jesse Owens (Stephan James) running in the Berlin Olympic games in 1936 and the controversy ensuing with the then upcoming Hitler regime. Owens went on to win 4 gold medals. Hopkins is no stranger to biography, having directed THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS.

The script, written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, covers many stories. The first and foremost is the story of the athlete Owens and his white coach Larry Snyder. The other is the romance between Owens and his girl, Peggy (Amanda Crew), who he has already had a daughter with, when going to the games. A political subplot involving the boycotting of the Games by the U.S. due to Germany’s racial policy of exclusion of blacks and Jews makes good interest into an otherwise too often told tale of underdog achieving the top prize. This story pits Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) against host of adversaries. Despite the many stories, director Hopkins always has the main story in focus, the winning of the games, while keeping the other side stories in perspective. The overall feel is a solid narrative.

Newcomer Stephan James inhabits the role of the star athlete very comfortably. He looks young as well as buff enough to pass off as an Olympic medallist. He is convincing without having to overact his role. But it is the supporting cast that deliver the prized performances. Carice van Houten steals the show as German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, commissioned by the Hitler to film the games. She runs head to head with the Interior Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels (played with sinister relish by Barnaby Metschurat). One could watch both van Houten and Metschurat, two German acorn forever.

The period piece was sot in both Berlin where the Games took place as well as Montreal to stand in for spots of Berlin. The atmosphere of 30’s Europe is satisfactorily convincing, but not over-stunning. The shot of the Games are excitingly executed with camera intercutting among the faces of the athletes, the looks on the faces of the coaches and of course, the spectators.

It is odd that this piece of anti-racism is a co-production between Germany and Canada. One would have expected the film, supported by the by the Owens family, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the Jesse Owens Trust and the Luminary Group to have some American financial backing.

Hopkins plays his film safe without trodding into too deep waters. The racial controversy is tackled with tact and quickly covered for. The result is a rather mild anti-racist film, that is more suited for the family than one to invoke controversy.

The film ends with the pictures of the real characters against the actors that played them. Again, formulaic safe filmmaking, like a history lesson that disturbs no one and stirs no still waters!

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