“Fruitvale Station” is about the last days of Oscar Grant III, however many people rather remember the politics of the laws regarding a shooting, the riots and protests, or meditate on destructive race relations; thankfully, the movie avoids all of that to tell a compelling character tale.
The film is about the last days of a young black man, was released shortly after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of either second-degree murder or manslaughter in the the shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin, another young black man. Both men were unarmed. In 2009, unarmed Oscar Grant III was killed at the Fruitvale BART station by a police officer, who was sentenced to two years and presently out on parole, and that verdict sparked grounds for some violent riots.
“Fruitvale Station” details the day-to-day things that any person would experience. The efforts of being a good boyfriend or girlfriend, a good parent, a good friend, bonding with family, and work issues are detailed as we become a fly on the wall in this Grant’s final days. I really liked that it focused on the life’s highs, lows and roads of progression of this “regular guy” instead of the politics of law, protests and riots.
Grant’s life and death illustrates that moments in life present social equalizers and dividers. It’s a compelling dichotomy between film and reality that stayed with me once the credits rolled.
Michael B. Jordan executes a tour-de-force with less acting and becomes a down-on-his-luck guy. He brings Oscar Grant to life as someone you know or met at some point and then, even for a moment, you almost how the story inevitably ends despite the cell phone video shown at the top of the film.
In the incredible degree of how we relate to Oscar Grant as a character in this film, it also comes with the drawbacks of people overall: we lie, we make big mistakes, we face the hard truth about our contributions to situations, and then decide what direction toward which we will move our lives. As a character study, the movie sinks or swims depending on the performance of the central character(s). Jordan’s performance makes this movie sail with ease and the supporters only make the movie better.
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer brings the hope center and gravity as Oscar’s mother, like a cooling factor to Oscar’s fire. That’s actually how I feel the supporting players function for Oscar as the balance and coolers when things get too hot or heavy, until the weight and heat overwhelmed at the end.
The movie keeps its star cast lean however fills small roles with the people you interact with day-to-day and they bring out the magic of interpersonal connection. Everything begins to matter much more when it could mean your final 24 hours of living. They all make us so personally invested into them on a level that a news story could not ever convey, and the journey and things you take away from it can stay around as you go forward. To get this from the art form of film or really anything makes it stand above many others of its kind.
Make no mistake, “Fruitvale Station” is a very hard film to watch. The experience carries huge impact no matter your race or your politics, and because the movie is not about either societal dividers that distract us from what really matters.
What matters is that a young man lost his life when he did not need to. This movie is about his life, and about live overall, rather than our reactions to his death.
out of a possible 10