This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year's Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn't been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant. Written by
The Weinstein Company
It's New Year's Eve 2008. Oscar Grant, a 22 year old Bay Area resident, decides he's going to do things a little differently today. He's going to try to be a better son, a better partner to his girlfriend and a better father to his 4 year old daughter. As the day goes on he encounters various friends, family and strangers who, along with flashbacks of his past, reveal Oscar to be kind yet troubled young man. It would be his last encounter of the evening with BART Police Officers at the Fruitvale Subway stop that would be would prove to be the most significant and rock The Bay Area to it's core.
Powerful and heartbreaking. The kind of film that sticks with you after you've seen it. The film was clearly made with a reverence to a senseless, tragic event. But the director doesn't go for over the top drama to enrage viewers or deify the main character; it's a warts and all depiction of a trouble young man (he was in jail, he sold drugs, he cheated on his girlfriend and was very quick to anger). The lack of sugar coating makes the character more believable, you empathize with him as he tries to change and that makes his fate resonate that much more. The opening scene sets a dark tone to the film. While there are a few light-hearted and funny moments, a sense of sadness permeates the film because you know what's coming. But the film is so well made and the acting so convincing, the inevitable conclusion is no less emphatic.
There's no over the top special effects and big Hollywood blockbuster cinematography. This film is completely performance driven and the actors bring it to life. The cast is outstanding, with very genuine performances. Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) has officially arrived as an actor. His portrayal of Oscar Grant as a flawed, but endearing young man is gut wrenching. You sympathize with his struggle, you feel is desire to be a better person. In a weaker Best Actor year he'd be a shoe in for a nomination, but it will be tough for him to get the nomination this year (but if he does, it's warranted as he did get a lot of early buzz). Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz are also very believable and their performances help drive the story home. I'm very excited to see where Michael goes from here in his acting career and continue to be impressed with the work Octavia has been doing as of late.
I felt the film was making a statement, but not in the way you'd expect. Most films based on a tragic event try to push a political angle or try to manipulate you, but I didn't feel that was the case here. This film is solely about Oscar Grant; yes, he was flawed, he was troubled but he was also a real person and not just a statistic, he was loved. His fate was tragically cruel, but his life was still meaningful.
It's rare to watch a film that can affect you in such a subtle way, the last film I felt this way about was probably last year's The Sessions. As I reflected on the film at the end, I found myself myself fighting back tears as I tried to keep my emotions in check. This was a fantastic film and unquestionably one of the years best.
Don't miss this one.
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