Fruitvale Station Review
by Nick Casaletto
Every so often, a film will come out of nowhere and grip you, hold you, and play with your emotions until well after its over. Sadly, this is a rarity nowadays and storytelling has gotten sloppy, for the most part. When the final scene in Fruitvale Station faded out, a packed audience sat in silence as the credits rolled. No one knew what to do, say, or how to act to what we had just witnessed. One thing I am sure that we could all agree on was that this was one of the most important films of 2013.
Fruitvale Station is the true life and death story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) a troubled 22-year-old man, fresh out of jail. The film opens with Jordan’s voice, telling his girlfriend how bad he wants to change, how we wants to be there for his daughter. We then get what is, without a doubt, one of the most disturbing opening scenes I have ever seen on film. The actual video footage from that New Years Eve night in 2009. The footage of what ultimately lead to Oscars death. The film cuts to the morning of the infamous tragedy. Right off the bat, you see Micheal B. Jordan’s likeability as a screen presence. He adores his daughter, plays with her and shows her the utmost affection. This is the strongest relationship in the film, both actors do a outstanding job. New actress Ariana Neal, who plays Oscars daughter in the film, Tatiana, oozes charm and cuteness in her performance. I am not the biggest fan of child actors, and she blew it out of the park.
You see, through Jordan’s performance, how badly Oscar truly wanted to change. In the one hour and 24 minute run time of the film, the emotional roller coaster he goes through is truly heart wrenching. Through a truly emotional flashback scene, while Oscars mother, Wanda Grant ( Octavia Spencer) visits him in prison. The scene starts off strong, with two actors simply exchanging dialogue. What this scene ends with packs such an emotional punch, I don’t believe their was a dry eye in the audience. The acting in the film, across the boards, is Oscar worthy.
First time director Ryan Coogler really has a knack for film making. It is clear he came into this project passionate about the source material. The gritty realness transcends onto the screen seamlessly, the shots are long and real. The camera is focused on the actors performances and does not shy away from scenes that are truly hard to watch. He knows how to create tension without it seeming forced. For a film where everyone more or less knows the outcome of the story, it is a true compliment to the director to still have such tension throughout the entirety of the film.
This film has a clear message and story to be told throughout. The movie is short, to the point, and has more character development than most big budget summer movies with over a 2 hour running time. I know it is too early for “Oscar Season”, but I truly hope Michael B. Jordan gets some recognition for his portrayal of Oscar Grant. He was truly charismatic, likeable, and even scary when he needed to be. This kid is on track to be the next big thing in Hollywood, progressing so much since his portrayal of “Wallace” on the critically acclaimed series “The Wire”. This film will leave you thinking for days about how truly cruel and messed up society is. When the final paragraphs are shown on the screen to tell us what happened to Grants killer, the audience was in shock to how easy he got off. I can only hope people learn from this film. It is definitely a hard watch, the tough street language is constant, and the violence that is on screen is quite bloody. However, I truly believe that this is one of the most important films to come out in recent years and definitely the most important of 2013 so far. Everyone should see this film at least once, it is truly exceptional.
Final Grade : A+