Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fruitvale Station (2013) Review:

Controversial topics are never easy to bring up because people can get fired up quite quickly. Yet this kind material needs to be resurfaced again and again in order for people to understand and digest the events that go on around them from day to day. For subject matter like this, there are several mediums the material can be sent through to grab the target audiences' attention. Written works such as books or newspaper articles are one, while the more popular method is on video via biopic, documentary movies or even nowadays, handheld recorded phone video. As for this movie, it's a combination of all three video mediums. The beginning of the film bookends the story with live footage and a documentary style conclusion of the true story that this film was adapted from. The meat and potatoes of the movie is where more of the biopic like execution comes in but only covering one day of the main character.

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Michael B. Jordan & Melonie Diaz
The story follows Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan) from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day, showing the different people he comes in contact with and how he interacts with them. This includes his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal), his mother (Octavia Spencer) and several other characters. It's interesting how one day a lone can display so much character to its viewers. Debuting as writer and director, Ryan Coogler displays the ability to cohesively write and direct this project efficiently to get the point across to his target audience. Every character and every scene has it's own message of which then all tie together in order to tell the story (of which has already occurred). The other notable key skill Coogler has is giving each character the ability to develop in their own way, which then also effects the overall play out of the movie. It'll end up making the audience think on the character's decisions as well too.

The character portrayals is what really moves the story here, mostly because the actors can portray all the right emotions. Michael B. Jordan was a sufficient choice to play Oscar. Jordan represents the misunderstood guy; the one who's making it by but could use a little more of a boost to start living better than he could be already. Oscar knows his living conditions are not top notch but he does what he can to make a good impression on others and be a good role model for his daughter. A good example of Oscar showing that he's working at being a better person is helping out a stranger played by (Ahna O'Reilly), who initially felt uncomfortable with him approaching her due to how he talked and dressed. Melonie Diaz as Oscar's girlfriend shows the strength when needed and that's usually around Tatiana. The chemistry between Diaz and Jordan also feel authentic and match their settings easily with their co-stars.

Ariana Neal as Oscar and Sophina's daughter is one of those rare child actors who show strong promise at an early age. Not only is her acting believable, but the intelligence and innocence that she gives the character of Tatiana is likable. Octavia Spencer as Oscar's mom also demonstrates the needed traits to be the mom of her older son. Spencer's chemistry really matches with Jordan's. Besides these main characters there are a number of other scenes that help define them and their surroundings. All of which go through the same motions most other people do everyday; sadness, euphoria, intimacy and frustration. This all goes back to the social commentary the film's message is trying to get across. Although individual's have troubled pasts, that doesn't mean any of them can change. Some are always working to be better than they were and the unfortunate thing is, sometimes society doesn't see that. Thus, making it a continuous uphill battle for the misunderstood.

Being a father
The musical score composed by Ludwig Göransson is decent for what it gives. There is no main theme but that's expected because this isn't a franchise anybody was looking to make. Plus, the score is fairly simplistic and minimalistic, yet effective. It is a little difficult to make out what instruments are being used mainly because the tracks aren't very long. But one of the best cues however is when the scene focuses on Oscar being a dad, this uses oscillating guitar chords making it sound innocent and home-like. It's those moments that work the best. There's only one element that could've used some improvement and that's Rachel Morrison cinematography. For what Morrison shows, much of them were good shots. The only problem was the camera’s stability. Surely this movie was not filmed by a camcorder, yet many of the shots are constantly wiggling around. For some scenes it can more understandable than others but most just requires the camera to be observing the events not being active in it. Perhaps Morrison was trying to make it feel as real as possible, maybe.

Aside from camerawork that is a bit too unstable for no apparent reason other than maybe to be as realistic as possible, the overall execution to this biopic/documentary is strong in its message to its audience. The music, writing and characters are all well developed and the actors that portray them suit the roles well, especially Michael B. Jordan as the main lead.

Points Earned --> 8:10

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