In many ways, Fruitvale Station is as green and earnest as "Boyz N the Hood," a debut film made by another alumnus of Coogler's alma mater, USC: John Singleton. Yet its ambition is closer to that of the most important American indie film in at least a decade, Patrick Wang's "In the Family," a must-see that's now available on DVD.
Sincerely powerful, it reminded me of John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood. These films are both earnest, striking and magnificent directorial debuts. Directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station is highly ambitious, it is for the hardened hearts and Coogler has articulated his deep-rooted connection with the story flawlessly. The film is based on the real-life tragic shooting that happened at Fruitvale Station on the New Year’s Eve of 2009. This irrefutable piece of reality haunts the film and makes it duly hard to watch. Yet, you are transfixed.
Oscar Grant, a 22 year-old man with lots of feelings, cares for many people and many people care for him. We spend New Years Eve with Oscar as he goes about his daily routine, struggling and searching over the various obstacles that many working-class people face. This is the side of the story that Coogler has decided to tell. SPOLIER. It is the day leading up to the death of young Oscar Grant.
We sample Oscar’s daily life; we get caught up in his agitated world. Michael B. Jordan gives a brilliant performance as Oscar, and understands the prejudice history that exists within the borders of the Bay Hill area. Nonetheless he gets on with daily life and is determined to make a difference. He doesn’t necessarily care about what others think of him, he has the “don’t give a **** attitude”, but this doesn’t make him a thug. It is the territory of young and black cinema, as was the term coined for the work of Spike Lee. It is promising that Coogler will have more heartfelt stories to tell that will contribute the past thirty years call for social justice in media, popular culture and sadly life.
Oscar is clearly troubled but events in his life. He wishes to share his inner burdens with others, he has a lot of close mates, but it is his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) and mother (Octavia Spencer) who come through as most compassionate. Despite past hiccups, the family gets together and celebrates New Year’s Eve without controversy and with great empathy, as it is also Oscar’s mother’s birthday. The family is “lifted up” by God, as spoken by the radiant mother. It is soul-destroying when she blames the tragedy on herself. She only wanted her “baby” to do what would seemingly be safest: catching the BART train to town, rather than drink driving.
The cinematography is closing in, the train is entering Fruitvale Station, and my heart is already pounding. The scenes in which the incident takes place are harrowing and expertly crafted. It is mayhem and for no alleged reason; this is the lunacy of the incident. I’ve never quite felt so strung and wounded by the cinema.
This film deserves mass attention and should be honored for its courage.
Fruitvale Station represents much of the evils in the world today. Ryan Coogler reveals his promise as a first-rate writer/director. The film is bold and emotionally draining--more than I'd like it to be, unfortunately.
this is an important film, but, sadly, not a great one. this story, in my mind, accurately reflects the current value society places on a black life vs. a white one, which will make it distasteful to some. i'm not a fan of this whole hand held camera, home made movie effect, and it doesn't really work here, but the talent of the lead male actor is evident & a treat to behold. my relatively low score reflects the lack of craftsmanship with which the film is made, and the few insights it provides. it does, however, serve to remind us of the tragedy of the loss of even 1 life needlessly, which seems to happen all too often amidst the poor.
Let me get this out of the way immediately. This isn't a bad film. It's not. The acting is fine, and Michael B.Jordan's performance is great. The viewer can't help but feel sympathy towards the character of Oscar Grant. The problem with the film is that it is extremely manipulative and it strains to evoke as much emotions from the viewer in the cheapest ways possible. The movie just doesn't come off as "real", and instead ends up feeling like "Oscar Bait". It just seems that the director has to spoon-feed the viewer how they're supposed to feel. I still liked the film overall and thought some parts were damn good. My rating: 6.4/10
It tells a very moving story about the last hours of a living man in an attempt to reach a wide audience. It's a shame it had to pass up the ethical approach for a cliched template that fails to defend the victim for these actions.