Summary: After being abandoned by his heroin-addicted mother, 14-year-old Mister and his 9-year-old friend Pete endure the projects of Brooklyn on their own. Race and class intersect in this story of despair and survival.
Review: In many ways, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a classic tale. With the title almost sounding Shakespearean, it’s a story of childhood friends navigating the residuals of adult mistakes, forcing them to grow up at a rapid pace. Set in the projects of Brooklyn, screenwriter Michael Starrbury crafted a nuanced story with the highest of highs, the deepest of lows and enough complexities to provoke thought. For many viewers, the film might feel consistently macabre because there is no Hollywood ending. Nonetheless, there is a bold joy in the George Tillman Jr.-directed film, which can be credited to Mister and Pete, played wonderfully by Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon. Their childlike innocence but adult sensitivities gave the flick an undeniable heart.
Jennifer Hudson stars as Mister’s drug-addicted mother Gloria. Next to Effie White in Dreamgirls, the performance is her best to date. There are also appearances from an unrecognizable Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Mackie and Jordin Sparks — all adding their high-profile chops to the indie flick. That said, the film is not perfect. In many scenes the storyline gets lost in its own poetry. But the direction of George Tillman Jr. and the writing of Michael Starrbury make for a solid cinematic team. In addition, the thoughtful score from Alicia Keys accentuates the kids quirky and admirable ways to survive. Mister and Pete see a light, no matter how dim, knowing there is something on the other side of their dire circumstances, which is a reality that resonates with many youths.
Side note: A variety of critics have sounded off on the film, but it’s important to note the version being released today is edited, shorter and includes a different ending than what was seen at Sundance.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is on DVD now.