Jeffrey Wright is very understated, but believable as Basquiat. Apparently he and his father were estranged, until he became famous. Then everyone wanted something from him. Not just another story of fame and its vices, however; because the film does NOT show his life as glamorous, indeed once he has "made it" we still see him dining at Lutece, people critiquing, being unaccepting of him as a person. Perhaps in real life this was one of the sources of his insecurities, and reason for his drug addiction. Certainly, if one believes even half of what is written about the NY art world- it cannot have been a forgiving place.
That aside, the film also has some interesting cameos, David Bowie as Warhol is excellent, Dennis Hopper as the Zurich art dealer, Bruno Bischofsburger is very believable. An amusing cameo with Christopher Walken as a James Lipton character; a pretentious interviewer. The only annoying performance was Parker Posey, as gallery owner Mary Boone, who perhaps portrayed this person too close to the mark.
Keeping in mind that Basquiat was under age 30 when he died, this story is credible. An artist who rose too fast, was used and discarded- apparently in real life Basquiat had a tendency to be generous, and gave away many of his paintings. There is one scene where he is beaten up so two street people can take steal a "SAMO" inscription on a piece of metal.
The visuals are also noteworthy, while an earlier review critiqued the surfboarding sequence, I find that a preferable segue to Basquiat's need to escape; apparently he owned a good deal of property in Hawai'i and spent time there as well.
The scenes with Claire Forlani are also effective, Basquiat's some-time girlfriend, we see her as a waitress, then a junkie, then a cleaned-up version, going to Columbia. The NY street sequences are realistic, It is not glamorous (though the accompanying jazz music is). It shows the schizophrenic nature of NY; Lutece, a homeless person sleeping outside, a man selling stuffed animals on the street, and Bruno Bischofsberger(Hopper) who mistakes Basquiat for a homeless person, trying to clean the windows on his Mercedes. Very realistic.
I highly recommend this film; it does not glamorize the story, and while it may not be completely accurate, it rings true, and portrays a life many artists may wish for, until they get it. 9/10