Imagine walking home. You just had a very productive day. Sure, not everything went as smoothly as you had hoped but it is still a good day. You arrive at your house, open the door and…BAM, someone sucker punches you in the throat. That’s pretty much my experience watching Fruitvale Station.
Fruitvale Station is Ryan Coogler’s first feature-length film and it’s a biopic about the life of Oscar Grant III, played by Michael B.Jordan. One day of his life, more specifically. Oscar is a 22-year-old from California, straight out of prison, with some history as a drug dealer. But it’s the day of New Year’s Eve and he makes his resolutions. Turn over a new leaf and live life peacefully with his girlfriend, Sophina, and their daughter, Tatiana. And that’s everything I can say about the plot without revealing anything. Only two more things I want to add; one, don’t look up the title before watching the movie because, like I said, based on true events; two, the cellphone footage used at the very beginning of the movie, is an actual video from the events of 2009.
Sucker punch in the throat
In case my intro was a bit vague, here is the long version.
Fruitvale Station has a very slice-of-life kind of ambience to it. The camerawork is very shaky but never to the point where it gets annoying, which makes it literally feel like you are following the actual Oscar Grant for an entire day. What adds even more to the film’s sense of realism is what transpires, nothing. Coogler doesn’t exactly follow the traditional narrative of exposition-climax-resolution. Rather than that; you follow Oscar in the car, to the supermarket, in the car again, to the gas station, in the car again, to his grandma, in the…you get the point, he likes to drive. All the way up to the end Jordan’s character goes through these everyday events, plus a little ghetto stuff, but they don’t really lead up to anything. Or not as you would expect at least. At the end of the movie you will realize that a lot of these, seemingly meaningless, events were foreshadowings or even catalysts leading up to that one sucker punch in the throat.
The cast does an amazing job even though it might not seem like it at first because of the everyday character of the story. They all fit the role perfectly and play it just as it is; nothing less, nothing more. And that is just perfect. Michael B. Jordan, of course I have to talk about him in person. I liked him in Chronicle but I loved him in Fruitvale Station. The frustration and anger he shows in this movie is palpable almost. He’s the type of actor that keeps getting better every time we see him -‘Fant4stic’ isn’t real- and he has proven himself again, more recently, in Creed. Which is also written and directed by Ryan Coogler. Two names that are on my to-watch-list and you can expect to see great things coming from both of them in the future.
This review might seem a tad vague at the moment but it sets your expectations for the movie without revealing too much, even though it wouldn’t really be a spoiler I guess…ANYWAY, I highly recommend watching Fruitvale Station. Once you have, come back to read this review again and it will all make sense. This is the kind of film that leaves an impact. After watching it, I sat on the edge of my bed for twenty minutes, just staring at the ceiling.
Fruitvale Station has a message but I don’t feel like they’re trying to push it down your throat. I say this because one of the main criticisms this movie has gotten, is that it’s propaganda. Watch it and see for yourself what it is.
Writer/Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray
Duration: 85 minutes
When to watch (again)? -when you’re ready to get sucker punched