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Movie Review: “Fruitvale Station”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: The Weinstein Company)

Summary: The tragic story of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by San Francisco transit officers.

Review: Fruitvale Station, produced by Weinstein Company in association with BET Films, opens in select cities this week, the same week the trial for George Zimmerman ends. Although the story of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant are different, the tragedy remains the same — two unarmed Black men senselessly shot and killed. In one case, that of Oscar Grant, justice was not served; and in Trayvon Martin’s case, we don’t know as of yet if justice will be served. Therefore, the timing of Fruitvale Station is eerily poignant and offers the question: Are the lives of Black men valued?

Writer and first-time feature film director Ryan Coogler offers a stunning debut that is free of politics. The Oakland, California, native focuses on the human side of the story with no political agenda. There is no persuasive argument. Coogler passionately chronicles the final day of Oscar Grant, peeling back the layers of the 22-year-old yet never exalting him to a flawless angel.  By the final scene, viewers will be overwhelmed not by another tragedy, but by the specific story of Oscar Grant — brother, son, friend and father.

Each performance in Fruitvale Station is raw, real and memorable. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer proves why she will not be a one-movie wonder — there is no residue of Minnie from The Help in her role as Oscar Grant’s mother. Melonie Diaz, as Oscar Grant’s girlfriend and mother of his child, gave the best performance of her career. Most notable was Michael B. Jordan in his most intense role to date as Oscar Grant. The weight of bringing Grant to life yet simultaneously delivering his last moments was clearly heavy, but Michael B. Jordan tackled this task with grace, respect and soul. There wasn’t a dry eye in the venue.

Executive produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Fruitvale Station is one film that will not be forgotten in 2013. Even if justice wasn’t served in the court of law, this young man’s story has officially been told. One can only think Oscar Grant would be proud. As a side note: while leaving the theater, I saw Oscar winner Michael Moore and asked him what he thought of the film. Moore answered, “Amazing … amazing.”

Fruitvale Station opens in select cities today.

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