Warning this review has harsh language and spoilers. Sorry it took so long, I’ve been extremely busy. Nonetheless I hope it’s enlightening.
I was lucky enough to be able to see this movie before its official release date. A movie that tackles the tough issue of race I went in high on expectations given to me from people who, honestly I don’t usually hear talk about these issues.
That should have been my first warning.
But lets start with the good.
An all-star cast turns in a stellar performance. Amandla Stenberg is amazing as Starr Carter. She brings so much nuance to the role. Every new obstacle in her way you can see her working it out in her mind, you can see it affecting her in different ways and she pulls you into that with her. Throughout the entire movie you see her brilliance as an actor shine through despite the gross mishandling of the script’s content matter. I couldn’t wait to see what she was going to do next.
Russell Hornsby also does a stellar job as the loving and proudly militant black father. His approach channeled so many black men I know and have known throughout my own life. Men who are trying their best to operate in this society and bring up their kids the best way they know how.
Of course Regina Hall is wonderful as always. Her performance in this film as the mother navigating her child’s emotional trauma while living in a place she resents was brilliant.
The second warning was that, while the book was written by a black woman, a white woman wrote the screenplay. I’m a firm believer of people telling their own stories, ESPECIALLY when it’s a story that revolves entirely around their identity or the oppression becoming of that identity. When others, especially those of the oppressing class get behind the reigns, they often (read: Always) get things wrong even in simple translation.
This film made me tired. Rather it made me realize just how tired I am of all these tropes.
I’m tired of the well-meaning white boy who doesn’t “Get it.”(wrinkle in time, dear white people the movie AND the series) Who’s colorblind, racist and or abusive foolishness is always satiated with a kiss and promise of hot and heavy affection down the line. He’s clearly their outreach to white people. “We still love you white people” this trope coos to them. “We still love you while you kill us, we just want you to do better that’s all” it sighs while lovingly stroking their hair. He’s there to coddle the white producers and give a boost to the egos of those funding the project, to make them feel like “hey that’s me” instead of them being the racist cop(spoiler alert they are usually the racist cop).
I’m tired of watching black people shot to death in real life and on film. It feels like trauma porn. Why did we have to see that so vividly? And if it(this movie) wasn’t for black people, why the focus on crime in the community?(more on that later)
I’m tired of the light-skinned caught between two worlds girl. I want to hear from the people who were ACTUALLY around Khalil. I want to hear from the unambiguous black girl who lives in the hood, stays in the hood and has no escape from the trauma. How does this affect her. Indeed Kenya’s version of the story would’ve been wonderful to hear, however we only see her as the loud, ready to fight sidekick who barely talks after the incident.
But what I’m really, REALLY tired of, is white people writing black people’s stories. There was absolutely no reason to give this script to the white scriptwriter Audrey Wells. Most of the issues with pandering to whiteness and the white gaze can most likely be attributed to this gross mishandling of storytelling. The scene where the white boy (hereafter referred to as WB) says he doesn’t see color and Starr calls him out on it only for her to forgive him as he (cornily) says “I see you” was astoundingly bad and completely misses the point. Then IMMEDIATELY after this Starr tells her dad that she’s dating WB because he didn’t show her what a good black man was, but what a good man was.
But you just said…Chile, whew.
There’s so many better ways to say why you are dating someone outside your race…and you settled on that colorblind mess RIGHT AFTER you explained very well, why that’s bull? Nah fam, back to the drawing board.
Also that whole interaction with her and her dad was creepy af but that’s a whole separate post. It made my skin crawl even with the wonderful acting, that was just written terribly, can’t fix that.
The biggest problem was with the end of this film.
You mean to tell me that you have me sit there and watch a black man die, vividly, then deal with the inaction of police, then watch the cop get off while another black family is torn apart….
And then chalk it all up to black on black crime?
“it’s not the hate YOU give, it’s the hate WE give.”
See, no, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, and the raggedy ass inline skates you wobbling out of here on.
This movie gets a lot right, which is why it’s so dangerous. it’s like they listened just enough to get people to listen and then switch them to the wrong side of a clear argument. People are going to walk out of this with a justification of their bs belief that black on black crime is equal to cop vs civilian murders and without an understanding of the underlying systemic issues that cause both of these things. There was a white woman in the movie theatre with me who had long grinch fingers in her hair, what she probably calls “dreadlocks.” She was a teacher and I can only imagine how emboldened her cultural appropriating arse was walking out of there. I fear for the lessons she will teach to children of all races about this topic based on this film.
And you mean to tell me that in the same movie a cop thinks a brush is a gun, but rolls up on an actual black child with an actual gun pointing it at an actual human being and they don’t shoot? And we watch the black guy go to jail but still nothing of the cop and that’s the happy ending?
Although the performances in the film were outstanding, moving, and ultimately some of the best I’ve seen this year…this movie gets no stars. As a general rule, steer clear of black trauma porn masquerading as a movie for black folks that’s really for sell-outs and fox news pundits.
Thanks for reading ya’ll. Fuck this movie.