Thursday, July 25, 2013

'Fruitvale Station' Review - ★★★★

Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer on the train platform of Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California on New Year's Day of 2009. He was a father, son, boyfriend, ex-convict, drug dealer, and a man of color. Fruitvale Station is an account of the last 24 hours of this man's life.

      27 year old writer/director Ryan Coogler makes his debut film about something he knows very closely. He and Oscar were both the same age and grew up in the Bay Area, under similar conditions. A critic or two have made claim that Coogler has taken this real life victim and painted a falsely positive picture of him. They do not understand that Oscar is not being glorified, gut he's being taken out of his post-death public persona and placed into a relatable reality. Coogler did his best to tell this story accurately through research of Oscar's cellphone messages and personal testimonies from people who were with him on his last day.

       The little things in Oscar's day, like reluctantly stopping for gas, make us relate to him, but nothing compares to the realism of actor Michael B. Jordan's portrayal of our protagonist. He can be the stubborn but loving son, the untrustworthy boyfriend, the playful father, and the terrifying thug all within a moments notice. His depth does not allow Oscar to be bound by any one label or stereotype. The film is a testament to the problems with that result from stereotyping.

       Yes, a policeman was the one to pull the trigger on Oscar, but the preconceived notion that a young colored man in an all black baggy t-shirt is dangerous, that is what killed him. Oscar was not perfect, no one is arguing that. He had made bad decisions and had had moments of true terrorization in his life, but those moments should not define his life. We all make mistakes, ones that can hurt the people around us. What we see in Fruitvale Station is a man trying his best to do the right thing. You can't ask for more than that. ★★★★


  1. Fantastic Work! Great article.

  2. I saw this film and Melonie Diaz who plays Oscar's gf did a Q and A after the screening. She illuminated a little about Ryan Coogler's process of working with the actors. All of the actors give outstanding performances, and are well cast, but the direction is awesome. When he made this film he was only 25 years old!! Although the film is episodic- the last day in his life, it is still dramatic. Oscar is presented as a flawed character, very human. He is not portrayed as a saintly young man. It is because he is portrayed so realistically that we have sympathy with him. And of course the portrayal of his mother by Octavia Spencer is beyond words..The film leaves you feeling wounded, sad, helpless and only confirms what we already know- how difficult it is to grow up as a black male in America. I was so touched by Obama's speech about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case when he says he too, has experienced the sound of car doors locking as he approached a car, and women clutching their purses when he entered an elevator. Another indication that we still have a long way to go in freedom and justice for all. Don't miss this film!
    Roz Sohnen