Blallywood Film Review: Fruitvale Station
The senseless killing of a black youth in Florida and the subsequent acquittal of his aggressor sent waves of anger and protest across the country. Questions of racial profiling and gun control have reemerged and people have taken to the streets to demand justice for Trayvon Martin’s family. In an ironic “life imitating art” event, the same weekend also saw the release of Fruitvale Station.
This film is a smart retelling of the events surrounding the last day of life for 22-year old Oscar Grant, III. On New Year’s Eve of 2008 in California, on his way home from festivities in downtown Oakland, he runs into a former co-inmate of his and a scuffle ensues. The BART operator contacts the police and after his aggressor escaped, he is arrested and killed by police officers at the Fruitvale Station stop on the metro. Starring players include the handsome and magnetic Michael B. Jordan as a gritty and charismatic Grant, a warm and authentic Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend Sophina, and an adorable Ariana Lee as their young daughter. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer rounds out the cast as Grant’s mother.
The film does a decent job of helping the audience emotionally invest in the story by painting a warm picture of Grant as a loving and struggling father, trying his best to live honestly after being fired from his job at a grocery store. Scenes with Lee are loving and playful and we even see him get emotional after a car strikes a dog while he’s pumping gas. We get the sense that his values are in line with our own so his death really resonates with us and it’s an emotional experience.
Performances feel a bit safe and distant and most of the film seems a bit polite when involving Grant and his family. This politeness is contrasted heavily by the brutality displayed in the Fruitvale Station scene. The police are complete bullies and senselessly harass Grant and his friends until the escalation is halted by the gunshot.
The film ends with actual news footage of the station in Oakland and a few facts from the case. The police officers involved in the shooting were fired and the officer who actually pulled the trigger was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison. He was released after 11 months.
This film does nothing to provide a sense of resolution or even outrage for that matter. Though a smart and thoughtful retelling, it feels a bit pedestrian and mediocre over all. There is no central theme or call to action, but rather it leaves you feeling a bit unsettled and nauseous. Perhaps that was the point, but compounded by the verdict in the case against Zimmerman, I left with a deep sense of sadness for the state of our justice system. B-.