Folks that have me friended on The Book may have already saw the brief comment that I made about this joint. I remarked that this was one of the powerful movies I have ever seen. Not only that, but it was far away the best one I had seen all year. I continue to stand behind that. I don't foresee any film getting anywhere close to it in the next few months. Now you get to see why...
"Fruitvale Station" follows the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 not realizing that it will be his final day. We follow him as he prepares to celebrate his mother's (Octavia Spencer) birthday while at the same time trying to prove he can be a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz). What should have been a great New Year's evening with family and friends turns deadly with one tragic subway ride on the BART.
This is one of those instances where you know full well how the story is going to end yet you desperately hope that watching the chain of events will create a different outcome. Director Ryan Coogler fully realizes this too which is why there is the build up showing everything that Oscar had going for it prior to the deadly event. I will say there was one instance where I feel he may have tried too hard though. I'm not sure I completely buy the part that Oscar just happened to try to rescue a dying dog that same day. I just have a funny feeling that particular scene was added for the sake of trying to infuse some more emotion.
What was done very well was how they showed that Oscar was not without his flaws. He had done some time in jail due to an earlier mistake. He wasn't the best son he could be. He wasn't the best employee he could be. But those were things in his past. He was doing a much better job in trying to get those problems resolved because he knew he had a daughter that depended on him. The potential ahead of him and the good he was doing definitely outweighed the road bumps he had put behind him.
This Michael B. Jordan kid is DEFINITELY the real deal. Prior to this, his biggest role was in the movie "Chronicle" which didn't require a great deal of dramatic effort. I take that back...he was also in "Red Tails", but I won't hold that against him. As Oscar Grant, Jordan delivered one of the strongest performances I have ever seen from someone his age. Heck, even for someone twice his age. We were able to feel every bit of emotional AND physical pain that his character did thanks to how he transcended the screen.
There's also much to be said for Spencer with her role as Oscar's mom. She is showing no signs of letting up since her Oscar-worthy performance in last year's "The Help". It's hard to believe that she is the same woman who was playing bit parts as whatever stereotypical Black female character was available. She has proven that when given the right material she could be one of those actresses that will have you believing she IS the person she is portraying. Her ability to be the family rock no matter how dire the circumstances had me thinking that she really was Grant's mom. Of course I have never met the woman but feel as though I had thank to Spencer.
The beauty of this film is it goes into explicit detail about what happened in every single moment of the actual shooting. I clearly remember this incident when it first came to light in 2009. I even spoke about it out here in a couple of posts. I just never knew why Oscar was in that situation in the first place. There's no denying that there was more (or in fact, less) he could have done to avoid the deadly confrontation. However, nothing is going to change the fact that he was still an unarmed man executed by an ignorant officer. And the way the whole thing transpired, including the moments, after was enough to make this one of those rare movies to make me emotional.
I made sure to take both of my sons with me to see this. I wanted them to see firsthand what can go wrong when a young Black kid is out late at night and ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Especially Elijah who is at that age where hanging out with friends late on the weekends can be a priority. I wanted them to see that you never know when you will run into that one arrogant authority figure who wants to overstep their bounds and how deadly the results can be. What they both saw was although Oscar wasn't helping himself out much with his attitude the BART officer was clearly in the wrong. That may have been a kid's perspective. I was watching as a father imagining my son in that situation and feeling helpless that there was nothing that could be done to save him. Thus the overwhelming emotions.
There were some trailers they showed before "Fruitvale Station" that gave me hope that there are still some great films coming out before 2013 comes to a close. A couple may even stand a chance at gaining Top 10 status for the year with me. Still, given everything that this flick had going for it and how it had me feeling, I just don't see anything toppling it as the most incredible movie I have seen this year. Perhaps even ever.
My rating: A