Ryan Coogler’s extraordinary “Fruitvale Station” opens today in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Forget all this other stuff– from Adam Sandler to more sci fi robots to John Travolta’s ridiculous ‘Serbian’ accent. None of this matters. “Fruitvale Station” is not like “Precious” but it resonates similarly: you feel the truth of it immediately, from the first scene, to the last. This is quite an accomplishment for 27 year old Coogler and his first film.
Some thoughts: Michael B. Jordan plays the late Oscar Grant in a career making performance. I didn’t watch “Friday Night Lights” closely enough to recognize him. I was shocked later to learn that was a geeky teen with dreds on “All My Children.” This shows you how soaps find young actors. Amanda Seyfried was in a lot of scenes with him, so was Leven Rambin.
Jordan makes Oscar Grant, whom none of us ever knew, into a real person, a 3D human being. But all the actors in “Fruitvale” make their characters come alive, especially Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. And the script has some nice funny touches, too, especially the mini story about birthday cards different for white and black people. There’s a lot of knowing looks in the audience when that story is played out.
The BART cop who shot unarmed Oscar Grant in the back and killed him served only 11 months in jail for involuntary manslaugher. He did wind up losing a civil case. Oscar Grant’s young daughter got a $1.5 million settlement which isn’t much when you realize her life is now full of terrible obstacles.
Oscar’s best friend, who I think in the movie, was played by Ryan Coogler’s very engaging brother Keenan, also sued the city and BART in 2009. Last year he was found shot dead in a car. He was not involved in drugs or any criminal activity. It’s an unsolved murder. You can only surmise what happened to him.
The first time I saw “Fruitvale Station” it stayed with me for two weeks. When I saw it again the other night, it had the same effect. I can’t stop thinking about it now. First, it’s a tragedy, a monumental miscarriage of justice. Second, it’s a great movie. As Coogler said to me at the premiere, “You don’t really want to celebrate after you see it.” But Coogler and that cast deserve a lot.
PS Not to be overlooked: especially good are supporting players little Ariana Neal, Ahna O’Reilly, Marjorie Shears, Kevin Durand, and Chad Michael Murray.
See this movie.