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|Index||16 reviews in total|
I went to see this 3 nights ago here in Cork, Ireland. It was the world
premiere of it, in the tiny cinema in the Triskel Arts Centre as part
of the Cork Film Festival.
I found "Strange Fruit" to be an excellent movie. It is a bit rough around the edges, but for a low-budget movie that is to be expected! In general the acting (particularly from the main lead Kent Faulcon) is wonderful, the cinematography and direction excellent, and the script hugely entertaining and thought-provoking, with some nice set-ups and witty dialogue.
The ending was a bit sudden, with no conclusion given to characters and events once the finale came to its gripping end ... but perhaps that's what the filmmakers were going for? It certainly did make the movie more unsettling. I did like the fact that the main character never came to terms with his mother on screen: it leaves you wondering whether or not he ever will, as in real-life sometimes these things are never settled. This was a good choice, to leave it unresolved rather than sentimentally wrapping it up!
Taut and suspenseful throughout, "Strange Fruit" is a hugely ambitious debut and I have high hopes for what the writer/director Kyle Schickner will unleash next. He - and his colleagues - are a talent worth watching.
I hope "Strange Fruit" gets a wider release soon, as more people deserve to see this movie, an above-average thriller with some original and insightful twists on homophobia and racism in America's Deep South.
Highly Recommended: 7/10
"Strange Fruit" certainly occupies a lonely niche on the video shelves - a gay drama with an African American cast and themes. For that alone, it was worth a look-see. Centering around the lynching murder of a gay black man in a small New Orleans parish, the tone teeters between realistic and over-the-top at times. Perhaps it is the 'momma' who seems to be way too young (topped by an ineffective gray wig - wasn't there an actress of age willing to take the role?) or maybe it is the 'moustache twirling' sheriff that unbalances "Fruit", but the film's reality suffers none-the-less. The acting is pretty good, with a background love story (for those who don't care for crime drama). My major problem with "Fruit" is that it seems overly long at nearly two hours and could have been streamlined a bit. On their indy budget, sound suffered the most and the editing is static and doesn't help move the film a long one iota.
I too had waited a long time to see this film. As far as I know it has never been released in Australia so in the end I found a copy on the net and ordered it through there. Weeks after my order confirmation it finally arrived and I was extremely excited to finally be sitting in front of my TV ready to watch a film that sounded so interesting and controversial and filmed in an area of the world where so many good movies are. What a disappointment. Within the first few minutes I realised I'd ordered a B Grader but was still full of expectation. I convinced my son (18) to watch it with me as I love sharing when I find a movie of value with good underlying statements and/or story lines. About half way through he got up and said he couldn't stand watching it any longer, it was so predictable and amateurish. I agreed but watched to the end. The acting was atrocious even for B Grade standards. The stereotyping also predictable and I feel for the good folks of Lake Arthur, Louisianna who must've cringed after seeing the film depicting them in such a way. No doubt some racial prejudices still exist in many parts of the world not just the States but really, in this day and age I doubt they'd get away with all the ridiculous alibi's presented in this. I had to double check the date the film was made as their attempts at gimmicky filming of the more gruesome scenes was something I'd expect from a high school student's first attempt at making a film 'indy' like. I'd like to see this film put into the hands of experienced scriptwriters and film makers, its an old tale but one that could still pack a punch if dealt with professionally. So disappointed after such a long wait and with such high expectations. The soundtrack was probably the only thing I enjoyed.
The opening credits for the writer/director Kyle Schickner (Full
Frontal, Rose by any other Name) film STRANGE FRUIT are eloquently
beautiful camera passages down a Louisiana bayou at night, the end
point being an isolated little club (the Gator) reached only by a
floating raft. The mood is set for an atmospheric Southern Gothic
drama: what follows is an overly complicated exploration of racism,
homophobia, family dysfunction, police corruption, prejudice (racial
and gender), and most important gay homophobia! Too many irons in the
fire make a film that has a lot of potential come to a confusing end:
too many of the subplots and motivations remain unexplained.
There is a lynching of a black gay man in the parking lot of The Gator (a gay bar where people of like minds can hide at night as long as they stay in the closet outside the bar). The mother Emma Ayers (a radiant Berlinda Tolbert) and her ne're-do-well remaining son Duane (David Raibon) are convinced the incident was a murder but the sheriff (Sam Jones) and his redneck deputies (with the exception of Deputy Conover - Jared Day) dismiss the lynching as justified because it was 'sexually motivated' and gay men deserve such an end. Emma calls the victim's childhood friend William Boyals (the fine Kent Faulcon), a successful lawyer now in New York, to come and investigate. What William discovers upon his return to his hometown is a cast of characters that includes hateful white trash, closeted black gays afraid to defend each other, 'law enforcement' that is anything but honest, the strength and devotion of his 'aunt Emma', and the mother that disowned him when he came out of the closet to be a successful gay man. The story proceeds to follow leads about the lynching and along the way there are other murders and lynchings that muddle the picture until the finale when the words of the Gator owner explain the happenings: 'Nothing is ever like it appears to be'.
The film is moody, atmospheric, and there are some fine performances by Faulcon, Tolbert, Raibon, Jared Day and Jones. The problems include a script that opts for generalities and clichés and once again a music score and recording system that buries a lot of the dialogue. But it is refreshing to see a story that views the black gay life in the South from the vantage of a handsome, successful, gay black man. Though overly long at 115 minutes, STRANGE FRUIT is still a film of interest for the chances it takes.
I just saw this excellent film at the Asheville Fim Festival and was
just stunned! The movie was so well written. The acting flawless. I was
in tears at a couple of places during the movie. Mr. Faulcon was just
tremendous in the lead role, especially in the last few minutes. His
powerful acting was one thing that brought me to tears at the end. It
kind of had the feel of "In The Heat of the Night". Very sad movie that
makes you think about being gay in the South and also being black and
gay in the South. As a note, Mr. Shickner was in the audience and
hosted a Q&A after the movie. (I was actually sitting next to him and
another producer without even knowing it. Pretty neat!)
Highly recommended, especially if you grew up gay in the South.
Horrible script, ending is a non sequitur, some okay acting, mostly
wooden - bad, bad, bad script. Much as I am willing to suspend
disbelief in the interest of a movie about gay life this movie is
beyond my ability.
Some of the relationship interactions, e.g. between Boyles and Calvin's brother, are interesting and worth watching. Duane's performance is good, the bar owner's is also. This is not the strongest cast, but no- one could do much with this script.
Surprise endings should make sense in retrospect - this one just comes out of the blue, without any reasonable build up or explanation, confusing the message of the movie and disdaining the intelligence of the audience. Also, a message movie about racism and homophobia does not need a surprise ending, it just distracts and detracts. Stupid stupid script.
Would love to see a serious movie about life as a gay black man in the South (or anywhere) - this ain't it.
"Strange Fruit" does indeed have its flaws primarily the stereotypical redneck Sheriff. Additionally, one has to suspend believe entirely to believe a handsome African American man would come out as gay in high school in the deep south. However, getting past that, how likely is it that a homophobic self-righteous Sheriff would allow a gay bar to exist in his Parrish? Nonetheless, despite the weak plot devices and one-dimensional portrayals of some of the ancillary characters, the movie tells a story that needs to be told. That is, how difficult it is for gays - especially African American gays to find acceptance both in their families and their communities. The dead characters mother provides some telling insight into the whole "DL" phenomenon when she laments that fact that her some Kelvin "Never knew how to blend in." This is very realistic as a lot of African Americans have disdain for effeminate gays. If you're "passable" and keep your personal life hidden, everybody's OK with that. Kent Faulcon, who portrays William Boyals, alone is worth watching this movie for. He's unbelievably handsome, and gives a dignified and powerful performance. His depiction should be required viewing for black male actors who shy away from accepting gay roles. Playing gay need not require sacrificing one's manhood. Also moving is the depiction of a mother who loves her child, but cannot accept his sexual orientation therefore believes she should hold on to her hurt, anger, and bitterness rather than finding a way to deal with it. I would recommend viewing "Strange Fruit" for the social commentary it so realistically portrays.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a movie with an excellent concept for a story but that got
sidetracked but a large number of clichéd sub-plots, hackneyed and
unrealistic portrayed characterizations and performances, and some
frankly implausible (and highly coincidental and, not to mention,
convenient as plot points to move the story to its inexorable finish).
The lack of anything that marked the lead as actually gay, other than some coincidental references to Crow Bar or that he's gay, was troubling. It wouldn't have hurt to actually show him do something, even if it was just meet a friend for drinks.
It's worth checking out and has it's merits. There isn't much, even now a few years after the movie was released, in the way of movies that feature both a lead that is gay, or a significant gay plot line, and that is also about African-Americans. For that, it's worth checking out. I wouldn't look too hard for it and I wouldn't waste my time looking for it to own. This is a rental, and not a premium rental at that.
I saw this film at the Pan African Film Festival and I will be honest I
was a little skeptical seeing that someone white was attempting to tell
this story (they introduced the writer/director before the film) but
from that long opening shot, of the slow tracking shot down the river
over the credits I was taken in. Usually when seeing films at
festivals, you kind of expect a level of amateurishness to the whole
endeavor, but I was thrilled to see an actual real life film. The
production value was incredible, and although the filmmakers were cagey
about the budget at the Q&A afterwards, I would guess close to a cool
As to my fears of the filmmakers race telling the story of the lynching of a gay black man? They were unfounded. The levels that Strange Fruit works on is mind boggling. Most movies these days are afraid to tackle any one of the many issues this film addresses. From racism, homophobia, family dynamics, Schickner navigates his way through such thorny topics without blinking, and right when the audience thinks it has it all figured out the writer pulls the rug out from us all in a twist ending sure to excite and enraged all at once.
Kent Faulcon is a revelation as the star. There was an excitement in the crowd because I think many were feeling what I was as the movie played on: "This is a star in the making". In fact, every actor from Faulcon to the waitress with one line makes you believe you are in the backwoods of Louisiana and not at some actors workshop. It was especially thrilling to see my very first boyhood crush, Berlinda Tolbert who played Jenny on the Jeffersons as the grieving mother. "Moving on up indeed!" The best was the sheriff, he was such a hateful redneck with a heart.
If this film makes it to your town do yourself a favor and check it out. More films need to be like this!,
After the first few minutes, I figured I wouldn't give this film
anything higher than a 5. The sound is atrocious. The violent scenes
are beyond amateurish. Some characters, particularly the Sheriff, were
parodies of themselves, and unintentionally painful to watch. And some
characters had sudden changes of heart that weren't believable.
But two things hold the viewer's attention. First, Ken Faulcon in the lead role is believable and captivating. And second, the story of twin bigotries is also believable, and the plot is told in a way that the ending was a complete surprise to me, in more ways than one.
I agree with others who said this film could be better paced near 90 minutes. Get a better cast, fine-tune the script, improve the production values, and you could have something. Look what happened to those atrocious Madea videos -- some became half-decent movies. While I give this current film a 6, I'm certain that a remake could achieve a 7 or 8.
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