Fruitvale Station (2013) Poster

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Let's hope greater exposure gets this film more intelligent reviews
harris107829 June 2013
I don't usually bother writing reviews, but this is a good little film that I feel has been unfairly maligned by a few uninformed reviewers here, so I'll add my two cents:

Fruitvale Station is a solid film, well paced and edited, with a strong lead performance by Michael B. Jordan and some standout work by Octavia Spencer. The sound design is particularly noteworthy. The cinema verite camera-work (No, "M. Brand," the visual style here was a choice; well made student films, even cheap ones, generally look better than this) left me underwhelmed for most of the film (and honestly, the mistimed focus pulls were pretty distracting) but paid off big time in the Fruitvale sequence. There the cinematography, editing, sound design, and score combined to create the most gripping ten minutes of film I've seen in a year. I'd recommend Fruitvale on the strength of this sequence alone.

Ryan Coogler admittedly takes some dramatic license with the story. Some of it (the Katie character) works, some (the bit with the dog) comes off heavy-handed. None of it gave me any reason to question the film's "fidelity" to the facts. The unfettered access to Oscar's family, legal documents from the criminal and civil case (including all the video taken on the scene), and the tacit approval of BART (They were allowed to film on the actual BART platform and in their cars!) gives me no reason to believe this film takes any more narrative license with the facts of the Fruitvale incident than many documentaries would.

The film is not perfect. Some of the performances are subpar, some of the improvised dialogue bumps, and the day-in-the-life conceit, while not ignoring Oscar's spotty past, does paint him in an unrealistically rosy light. But by and large this is a moving, gripping, at times infuriating film that will stick with you after the credits roll. Congratulations to Coogler and his team.

**As for the troll who called this film "socially irresponsible," your opinion and the reasoning behind it are so abhorrent I struggle to imagine any person, no matter how ignorant or loathsome they might be, taking you seriously.
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Passionate and sympathetic portrayal of a complex and struggling young man
jolgacr27 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This film depicts story of a deeply flawed young man struggling to turn his life around. The movie reveals the generous good-hearted nature of Oscar, on whose life the story is based. The awards the film has won are well deserved, as the film-maker succeeds in presenting an unsparing look at Oscar's many failings even as he humanizes this young man whose life is largely unknown to the American public. In a quite amazing fashion, all of this is done through the lens of a single day in Oscar's life, with only the aid of one brief flash-back.

Despite his efforts and his kindness, Oscar is failing to transcend his past as much as he is succeeding in doing so. His struggle to change is fueled by his relationships with three women central to his life, and we are on the edge of our seats watching his relationships play out with them, knowing before the movie begins how it will end. It is a credit to the film-maker that he is able both to maintain that tension and at the same time to draw us into Oscar's world so effectively. This craftsmanship only underlines the tragedy of the final outcome more starkly.

It is sad that the review that wins pride of place on this website ignores Oscar and focuses on Officer Mehserle, who appears only briefly in the movie. The film does not demonize Officer Mehserle, and one might be tempted to do, but rather presents him as a blank slate. Surely, as those who witnessed the events appeared to do, and as the jury who found him guilty corroborated, we might well assume that he committed a crime. However, his motives are not suggested in the movie, his youth is clearly depicted, and his inexperience implied. Surely any professional, a doctor for example, who makes a mistake of motor memory under pressure and thus takes the life of another human being, should be held accountable for her actions to the full extent of the law.
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Saw this at Sundance
keelab8726 January 2013
I knew nothing about the true story behind this film before I saw it but Ryan Coogler did an impressive job of telling this controversial story. Coogler takes us to the last day in 2008, and introduces us to Oscar Grant's life. A young, troubled father that is trying to do the right thing by his family. This was his debut at Sundance and he didn't disappoint. The audience laughed when the actors laughed and shed tears when the actors shed was a very moving film. By the end of the film I felt as though I knew these people personally. The whole cast did an excellent job! I'm looking forward to hearing more about Ryan Coogler in the future.
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Based on or Inspired by?
David Ferguson13 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Greetings again from the darkness. It's not politically correct to criticize this movie, but it seems only fair to treat it as I do every other movie on which I comment. If that sounds like a bashing is coming, you are mistaken. In fact, this is an emotionally-charged, well written and exceptionally well-acted movie that provides much anticipation for the future projects of its first time director Ryan Coogler. However, in my opinion, it is also flawed in its "Based on a True Story" placard that is then followed by much manipulation (3 Oprah references), some of it even bordering on misleading.

If you are unfamiliar with the tragic story, 22 year old Oscar Grant was inexplicably shot and killed (while subdued and face down) by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop after watching New Year's Eve fireworks with his girlfriend and buddies. An altercation/fight occurred on the train and the officers pulled Grant aside to detain/arrest. Much of this was caught on cell phone video by train passengers, and the aftermath brought protests in the city. The officer was tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years. He claimed he mistook his gun for his Taser.

No one can argue that this was anything but a senseless tragedy. Director Coogler even begins his movie with actual cell phone footage of the incident. The ending is known and seared in the viewer's mind before the story even begins. Whether the senseless shooting was racially driven is a topic for debate, but the current media focus on the George Zimmerman trial and his killing of Trayvon Martin makes the timing of this movie quite compelling.

Coogler certainly points out that Grant (adeptly played by Michael B Jordan) was no angel. We learn about his prison stints, his drug dealing, his unfaithfulness to his girlfriend (the mother of his daughter), his lack of responsibility (losing his job due to chronic absence), his string of lies, and most glaringly ... his terrifyingly quick and violent temper. My issue with the film is the seemingly inordinate amount of time Coogler spends on the flip side -- the focus on Oscar's desire to get his life back on track. So much effort and so many scenes are written to exhibit how Oscar is a charming guy with a big heart. He helps out a white lady in the grocery store, he takes a big step towards leaving the drug dealing life, he plans his mother's birthday party, heck ... he even cradles a poor dog that was hit by a car. This inequity in storytelling apparently has only one purpose ... to create another symbol of racial injustice. We are not left to ponder if the real Oscar is the one who inspires his daughter to brush her teeth or the one who bows up to a foul-mouthed convict. Instead, Coogler wants us to believe that Oscar was now a good guy who had put his past behind him ... all in the 24 hours leading up to his death.

The fact is, there are two sides of Oscar, just like everyone has multiple facets to their personality. Most of us learn to control the sides that doesn't mesh well with society ... others really struggle to do so. Michael B Jordan delivers a powerful performance as Oscar, and he and Octavia Spencer (who plays his mom) will both garner awards attention. Other supporting work is provided by Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend, Ariana Neal as his precious daughter, Ahna O'Reilly as the shopper, and Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray as the BART cops.

This film was the hit of both Sundance and Cannes, and was produced by Forest Whitaker. A major tip of the cap to BART for allowing the filmmakers to work on location at the actual Fruitvale station, for a level of authenticity. Coogler chooses one last bit of manipulation with his closing video of Oscar's daughter Tatiana at a recent memorial outside of Fruitvale station ... followed by on screen text of the officer's two year sentence. We get no details on the trial, only the assumption that the sentence does not deliver justice, but rather another example of racial bias.

Lastly I'll say that the decision to make a dramatization rather than a documentary was interesting. This allowed the director to focus on Oscar the good guy. A documentary would have required facts from the trial, a better perspective of the train disturbance and probably fewer Oprah references. The dramatization makes the movie more emotionally charged and more effective at inspiring discussion, rather than debate. Despite all of that, this is extraordinary filmmaking from a first time director, and I will certainly look forward to Ryan Coogler's next project.
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Tragic, sympathetic and simple. Fruitvale Station takes us inside the world of the late Oscar Grant
trublu21513 July 2013
Based on the true story of one of the most heart wrenching instances of police brutality in American history, Fruitvale Station humanizes Oscar Grant, a victim of senseless police violence and racial profiling. This film does not paint him as a saint nor does it paint him as a crook, it shows him as a human being with many flaws. Michael B. Jordan gives an electrifying performance as Oscar Grant. He doesn't miss a single step and delivers a performance that has solidified him as a force to be reckoned with on screen. The film, as a whole, works but not for storytelling. This is a film that has great performances and that keeps it above average on many levels. If there was anyone else playing these roles, especially Jordan, I feel as if the film wouldn't pack as much of a punch. Ryan Coogler directs the hell out of his actors and does a fantastic job keeping pace. Running at just below an hour and a half, the film moves. It doesn't drag, it doesn't lack, it is a beautiful and moving portrayal of a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the decisions that he made to put him at Fruitvale Station on that fateful night.

Overall, this is a film with powerhouse performances that needs to be seen. The 2013 awards season definitely has a contender in Fruitvale Station along with a soon-to-be Oscar nominated Michael B. Jordan.
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Tragedy at Fruitvale Station
seaview110 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
An independent film written and directed with stunning effectiveness by newcomer Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station is based on a true story, and even though its story of an unarmed black male who is shot on New Year's Day, is pulled from national headlines, the film is a character study of the choices in life and how a cruel twist of fate intervenes. It lingers in the heart and mind long after the end, and as such is one of the best films of the year.

We witness video footage of police rounding up black youths at a transit train station, and while the suspects are on the ground and restrained, a gun goes off striking one of them in full view of witnesses. What follows is a flashback account of the final day of Oscar Grant's life and the events leading up to New Year's Day 2009. Amid the backdrop of the Oakland Bay area, Oscar (Michael B. Jordan in a breakout performance) is a young black man whose background is a mix of prison, drug dealing, and failed jobs amid a serious relationship with his girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), and their little daughter. He loves his family especially his mother (Octavia Spencer is rock solid) and vows to make a better life for them. It is New Year's Eve, and he helps to prepare his mother's birthday celebration. Just as he is on the brink of a new start, fate intervenes at a transit station and a deadly encounter with police.

Oscar is a man who has a conscience and a sense of responsibility. On the one hand he is portrayed as a devoted father, a passionate lover to his girlfriend, and loving son to his mom, and yet he lies to his loved ones and is in constant turmoil. It is affecting to see that he genuinely wants to leave behind his broken life and get a second chance. We root for him too, and that makes what happens at the end that much more compelling.

This is the sort of subject matter, which can be viewed as an indictment of police violence and a statement on racism that might have been ideal for HBO or a filmed documentary like The Thin Blue Line. You also expect to see a post-shooting trial, but the film focuses instead on the events and people around Oscar that lead up to the fateful moment. It is a portrait of a young, flawed life ended before it has a chance to redeem itself. We want to know a bit more about Oscar; what put him in prison, and what was his childhood like? Instead we get a fragment, one day in his life, about a father and his little daughter and the life they had and never will again. The final images of Oscar's real life daughter after the events depicted in the film are touching and sobering.

Coogler shows a good command of a scene and how to make it authentic. Moments of levity such as a group countdown to New Years are counterpointed by tense confrontations from the past. The dialogue is realistic, and you really feel you are watching a slice of real life. The pivotal scene of the police arresting Oscar and his friends is startling and upsetting; you feel like it could happen to you. The frantic reactions and emotions of the victims and witnesses as a shot rings out is heart wrenching.

Liberal use of hand-held cameras lends an immediacy and realism to the events, and there is a great shot of Sophina from behind as she reacts to the tragedy. We don't need to see her face because we know from her body language exactly how she must feel.

One wonders how much of the screenplay is based on truth, but whether this is or isn't a biased view of an event by the filmmaker, it is highly emotionally affective filmmaking. In light of other recent, racially charged headlines, it cannot help but become a hot topic. This vivid, stark reenactment of an event that should never have happened is a relatively simple tale of a complex life, a kind of urban, American tragedy. It is a powerful, filmic statement that raises questions that demand answers.
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Ryan Coogler's impeccable writing and directing are phenomenal, and in the film's final scenes, tears are guaranteed.
Andrew Milito29 January 2014
In the wake of the many tragic shootings in the U.S., things have looked pretty bleak for Americans. Haunted by the Newtown school shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, as well as countless local and minor shootings, American lives have been turned upside-down on numerous occasions. Somehow, one recent shooting almost seems to have been buried by the others. That shooting is the tragic death of Oakland citizen Oscar Grant on New Year's Eve, 2008. Five years later, first time director Ryan Coogler brings this story back to the public eye with Fruitvale Station, a heart-wrenching drama that is sure to leave you misty-eyed.

Fruitvale Station ultimately opens with its ending. The tragedy unfolds with real footage recorded by witnesses on their cell phones during the event. Oscar and some of his friends are brutalized by Bay Area Rapid Transit police for getting into a fight on the subway. Oscar, supposedly resisting arrest, is pinned to the ground by an officer. He pulls what he believes is his taser, and pulls the trigger. A loud bang rings as the screen cuts to black.

The film then rewinds, and proceeds to cover the 24 hours leading to the incident at Fruitvale station, the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant's life. As Oscar's remaining hours slowly dwindle down, the film delves into the background and life of Oscar, who lives with his girlfriend Sophina and their young daughter Tatiana. Oscar's relationship with his mother, his history with marijuana, and his family life is studied before the heart-wrenching incident unfolds on the fateful New Year's Eve.

Fruitvale Station retells the depressing true story with exhilarating emotion and tear-jerking drama. What's great about Fruitvale Station is the way that the script doesn't go out of its way to make Oscar a hero or an overly sympathetic protagonist. The film shows Oscar for what he was: a troubled young man who wanted to become a better one, but was held back by his past. The writing manages to accurately tell the story, but also adds in some important elements that never happened, foreshadowing the dramatic end.

The film's real strength is the passionate portrayal of Oscar Grant by up-and-coming actor Michael B. Jordan. In his first leading role, Jordan hits it out of the park, portraying every aspect of Oscar's personality with phenomenal passion. He's charming and relatable, but also explosive when the situation calls for it. In what should've been an Oscar nominated role (no joke intended), Jordan's performance cannot be summed up in words. The supporting cast is also strong, notably Melonie Diaz as Sophina and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Oscar's mother, both of whom are memorable and emotionally stunning in their roles.

For a movie with a first time director, Fruitvale Station is a triumph. Ryan Coogler's impeccable writing and directing are phenomenal, and in the film's final scenes, tears are guaranteed. Michael B. Jordan puts up a performance that is sure to make him a star, while Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer back up the film extremely well. With all these elements combined together in one emotionally hard-hitting package, they make Fruitvale Station one of the best movies of the year.
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Jordan's champion performance carries the film!
meeza20 September 2013
"Fruitvale Station" is not the feel-good movie of the year. Nevertheless, I think you should stop at this station to witness the impact that this movie throws at you. The film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. Grant was accidentally killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale BART station. The officer was part of a group of policemen who held Grant and his friends at the station for fighting with others in a train. This unfortunate event did not get the headlines that the Trayvon Martin case did, but was just as sad because a young life was taken away way too soon. Writer-Director Ryan Coogler orchestrates "Fruitvale Station" primarily on Grant's last day with his family, girlfriend, and friends; instead of just simply taking the "plight for justice" road. Consequently, that gives the movie more depth and authenticity. Coogler's scribe of the picture was not as impressive as his direction but still gets the word out on doing what is right not just for one's own sake but for their loves ones; and of course, he also disseminates the message on the unjustified death of Grant. Michael B. Jordan's starring performance as Grant was a slam dunk; and let me tell you it was no lay-up due to the nature of the complex character he had to portray. Jordan completely disappeared into the role. There were also some impressive supporting turns from Oscar-winner Ocatavia Spencer as Grant's mother Wanda, and Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend Sophina. "Fruitvale Station" does get overdramatic at times, but it does have justifiable reason to do it. So you might want to take a hanky, but I think this movie is one that should be on your track to witness. ***** Excellent
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Fruitvale Station- A Solid Debut Feature Slightly Debilitated by an Idealized Narrative but Effective in Minimalist Technical Choices and Careful Pacing
generationfilm18 June 2013
Seldom do we remember in our desensitized 24-hour news society that behind every headline, every momentary tragedy, and every affected victim there's always a personable human story that reveals the true layers of heartbreak once exposed for all to grasp, understand, and mourn. One example in particular of modern headline tragedy was the senseless,unwarranted shooting of 22-year old Oscar Grant by police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that reinvigorated a debate on prejudice and a call for civil rights that unfortunately lead to some violent protests in the aftermath. This heated headline event is the subject of 26-year old filmmaker Ryan Coogler's debut feature entitled Fruitvale Station that is a relatively solid first film depicting the importance of family, the rarity of second chances, and the difficulty of responsibility leading up the inevitable heartbreaking event that is heavily dependent on performances rather than strong narrative substance. What's meant by the word solid is that this isn't an immaculate film without flaws and deserving of infinite praise because it contains a great deal of manipulative narrative tricks, an overly positive dramatization of its protagonist, and absolutely zero new insight on the societal issues involved or a genuine message to take away beyond its sad and rather plain recreation of actual events. Instead of delving deep into the obvious flaws of Oscar Grant, ranging from an ill temper, relationship cheating, and drug peddling, Coogler sets out to overly forgive these foibles making Grant a martyr instead of a palpable human being representing how no one deserves his tragic fate no matter their past, present, or potential future. However, Fruitvale Station does demonstrate that strong acting performances coupled with a careful execution of technical choices from a new energetic developing talent in Ryan Coogler can make an effective and emotional film. Most of the positives within the film are located in the light dramatic touch of the hand-held camera work, the intimate settings, and the strong acting, especially a star turning performance from Michael B. Jordan who carries the tragic weight of the film on his shoulders. Though Coogler's debut feature might possess an idealized portrayal of his film's subject Oscar Grant as well as some blanketed assumptions on justice there is a great deal of admirable qualities that makes it a dramatically riveting and socially tragic depiction of true events.

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Do you call 911 when the killer is a cop?
Red-12516 September 2013
Fruitvale Station (2013) was written and directed by Ryan Coogler. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant III, an African-American man who was shot to death in the Fruitvale BART station on January 1st, 2009. The man who killed him was a police officer. The killer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about two years in jail.

The film follows Grant through his last day of life--December 31st, 2008. We watch as Grant interacts with his common-law wife, their young daughter, friends, relatives and strangers. Grant comes across as a basically decent man--flawed, undependable, but clearly in love with his family, his partner. and their little girl.

It's hard to enjoy this film, because it's based on a truly tragic event, and we know how the story will end from the beginning of the movie. Still, Fruitvale Station is definitely worth seeing, because it reminds us that everyone's life is always at risk, but that the risks for young, African-American men are higher.

The movie will work well on DVD. It's definitely worth seeking out and seeing.
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Marred By Pretending to be Documentary
WWJDWITHCA29 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was not about getting to the truth of what happened to Oscar Grant, the film is about creating a sympathetic viewpoint regardless of the ramifications. The producers have every right to do whatever they want if they are making sure we understand the film is complete fiction, which of course they don't and the movie does.

What happened to Oscar Grant is truly compelling, but I thought the story would have been really interesting if it was told through eyes of both men involved; Oscar Grant and Johannes Mehserle (the Bart Policeman whom shot him). To see how each persons life was tracking and how each of them ended; one physically and the other metaphorically.

I think the story would hold more credence if it told both sides, and would actually make both men sympathetic; thusly putting the emphasis on Oscar Grant; whom gave-up the greater, but as it is the movie irritates you for attempting to manipulate you with the race card. Why do we have to always fall back on that? Why can't it be about two people?
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Oscar Grant 1987-2009
bkoganbing8 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I was much moved by Fruitvale Station which is the name of one of the stations of the Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART as its known to the citizens of Oakland and San Francisco. On January 1 of 2009 among a group of crowded revelers on the BART train, an incident took place that cost young Oscar Grant his life.

Police shot young Grant and in this day of cellphone cameras which everyone but me seems to have it's impossible to get away with a lot of bad behavior. In this case the police shot Grant while he was cuffed and on the ground.

Oscar Grant is portrayed with deep insight by Michael B. Jordan and the film with some flashback sequences including one where he is in prison and has an incident that bears on what happened on 1/1/09, it's the story of his last day of life. We see a young man trying to turn his life around, a quite ordinary individual. Like in The Diary Of Anne Frank you are struck with just how ordinary young Mr. Grant was, just as the occupants of that 3rd floor attic.

I worked for several years at New York State Crime Victims Board before retirement and part of my job was to evaluate police work. I saw the gamut of work from truly heroic to unbelievably atrocious. The thing that always struck me was first assessment. Cops arrive on the scene and make an assessment immediately of who's bad or good. What happened on that BART train was nothing that Grant or his friends started, but cops on the scene, possibly as a result of prejudice made wrong judgments and that led to tragedy.

Fruitvale Station will get a flock of awards I've no doubt, maybe even in the big show with the Academy Awards. It's a fine film with lessons in it for all of us, especially those in law enforcement.
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Protest against unjust verdict or uncomplicated eulogy? You decide!
Turfseer24 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
At a recent screening of 'Fruitvale Station', I asked director Ryan Coogler if he believed the Involuntary Manslaughter conviction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer who shot Oscar Grant, was justified. Coogler was circumspect, stating that he was just trying to make a movie about what happened but he added that he could understand how Grant's family could have been very much upset with the verdict. An African-American man in the audience commented that that the film did a great service in pointing out the ongoing problem of police brutality in America today; again Coogler was circumspect, acknowledging that his film has engendered a multiplicity of opinions as to the proper verdict for the officer who was charged with Grant's shooting.

From my point of viewpoint, despite Coogler's refusal to take sides in public, it's clear that he's seeking to manipulate his audience so that they feel outraged at Grant's shooting. He accomplishes this by creating a fictional narrative of one last 'day-in-the-life' of Grant's movements, before the fatal shooting. Perhaps Coogler was reacting to some of the unfortunate public disparagement's of Grant after he was killed; but Coogler goes overboard in making him into a martyr. By stacking a whole group of improbable incidents that emphasize what a 'good guy' Grant was, into one day, the entire narrative feels manipulative and forced.

And what exactly are all these incidents that may or may not have actually occurred? Perhaps the most bathetic of Coogler's manipulations is when he has Grant give the stray pit bull that had been killed by a hit and run driver, his last 'rites' by the seashore (highly unlikely that this occurred as Grant is never seen telling anyone about it!). There are more questionable incidents for example: Grant calling his mother for some 'fish fry wisdom' for the untutored female shopper and patiently convincing a shop owner to allow the women he was with (along with another pregnant passerby) to use the bathroom. If in fact this film ISN'T designed to provoke outrage over a perceived injustice, A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club writes that its intended impact is significantly diminished: "Fruitvale Station plays like an uncomplicated eulogy, with little more to say on its subject than "what a shame this bad thing happened."

While Coogler attempts to humanize his protagonist by showing him to have a serious anger management problem, Grant's anger (in Coogler's eyes) sometimes seems to be justified. Take for example, Grant's blow- up in the flashback when he's a prisoner at San Quentin—it's the correction officers who are preventing Grant from talking to his mother.

I understand that what Coogler was trying to say about Grant was that at a certain point in his life he was not perfect and had some problems, but by the time he was killed, he had gotten his life together and moved past what was going on in the past. That may be true but sometimes 'karma' has a way of catching up with you. Grant was actually put in prison for weapons possession (a fact that Coogler does not mention). His confrontation on the train with the ex-con who tormented him in prison led to Grant being taken off the train by the police at Fruitvale Station. Had he not been in prison in the first place, it's likely he would never have had that confrontation on the train, and would never have been taken off the train, which led to his death. So here was a guy who was going forward but could not escape his past. This tragic theme seems a lot more truthful than Coogler's agenda which was to highlight the injustice of the verdict.

Unfortunately, if one is looking for a case of classic police brutality, what happened at Fruitvale Station, does not fit the bill as the 'poster child' for such incidents. The officer charged with the crime indicated that he mistakenly reached for his gun instead of his Taser. If he was going to shoot someone intentionally, would it be in front of witnesses who were filming the incident with their cell phone cameras? Clearly it was an accident. But why does Coogler fail to mention that one of Grant's friends heard the officer say, "I'm going to tase him." Because by doing so, that would be proof that the shooting was an accident and unintentional. In reality, this was a case of negligence, not brutality on the part of the police, despite Mr. Coogler's apparent stance to the contrary.

Despite all the mixed messages, Coogler still should be commended for his technical expertise. Working with a team of fellow USC students, Coogler has managed to put together a nice-looking film. He directs his actors well, particularly during the taut, climactic scene, where the tragic action unfolds. The neophyte director has bit off more than he can chew, attempting to dissect a topic infused with racial animus. Next time he would be much better served churning out a less controversial, commercial product. Whatever the case, it's likely he has a good chance of going far in today's ever-challenging film industry.
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Poorly Done and Misleading Amateur Film That's Hard To Watch
JohnLeeT6 October 2013
I wrote one of the first reviews here of this film and it was removed before it became impossible for supporters of Oscar Grant to have such a large number of unbiased but negative reviews taken down simply because they weren't liked. It had nothing to do with the film and was purely a political move. It seems that at the time of my first review there was a movement that this thing get a major award! So I submitted another review that is even more negative than my initial one because I had more time to consider this awful movie. It's simply a totally biased and rather amateurish film that twists facts to fit the political message of those involved in its production. Both badly written and poorly directed, the incidents depicted are presented in ways that are not accurate and unfair to both sides of the issues. That being said, the acting is actually rather passable and those playing significant roles are quite earnest in their work in spite of the stereotypical characterizations in the script. Kevin Durand as the personification of evil, the BART officer involved in the shooting, is an absolute standout. He has absolutely no redeeming qualities and is almost satanic in the film. However, the film has little to say for itself and is a big disappointment. It depends far too much on sensationalism and pure controversy to carry it along rather than presenting an interesting interpretation of a real-life event. Much too preachy and superficial overall and those are tremendous understatements.
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A complete and utter bore
siderite23 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
You know when you think a movie can be summed up in 10 minutes and that the trailer probably is the entire footage that you need to care about? This is worse.

First the film tells you how this black guy was a nice man, had a girlfriend, a daughter, loved them, loved his family, called his mother regularly, wanted to straighten up and so on. It does this for 58 minutes in which absolutely nothing happens except stuff to make us like the guy. Then they shoot him. 20 minutes later in which we see how his homies are outraged and his family is devastated, the film ends with one of those texts about what happened next. That's it. I am not kidding.

A news report on the subject would probably have been enough. After all, it doesn't matter how nice he was if he was shot for no good reason. His personal life is irrelevant to the case. So, in fact, the film is not about that at all, it's only about making the viewer going all "awwwwh!".

Bottom line, I can't believe I wasted the time to watch this. The relevant scenes about the "Fruitvale Station" incident were less than five minutes. I liked those, at least they featured Kevin Durand looking really big and mean. The rest was an incredible waste of time. The lesson here is probably not to act like a monkey in heat when cops with guns are around, although their use of fire weapons would probably be independent of your behaviour anyway. It doesn't help, though.
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Just tell a story, if you have to sell it as anything else it isn't very good.
ericnottelling9 August 2013
First off, let me say that if this movie wasn't claiming to be a real life story, wasn't trying to be politically correct, and didn't try go after the BART officer I might have more respect for it. But the movie is obviously a fiction and they need to go with that. We are to believe somehow that this man, in a miraculous 24 hours turned his life around from his selfish, brutal selling drugs to children character to a peaceful upright do gooder citizen. It's just not believable from any perspective. When you have a movie based on Oprha references as a true story you better be giving away a free car for good reviews. As my first question is who paid to have this film made? It is obviously more politically fodder than art. We all know Hollywood is liberal, but that only goes so far till it turns off viewers by ruining a script and story. This movie would have been much better off showing true character development. This man as still the thug he was struggling to have one day of small changes in an attempt to turn around his life. Instead they mislead to believe this was the makings of a good guy instantly changing and in turn instantly turned off viewers. This is not a guy stranded on the mountains eating his fellow survivors in an attempt to survive knowing he has little to no chance to live. There is no believable reason for these instant grand changes. Nor is there any real notion that he is struggling with the changes he's making. That is where this movie just fails. The director maybe talented, the actors might be as well. It's really hard to tell given the script they are working with is just garbage. The real sad part of this movie, is that some dumb idiot is going to watch this and think this is "real". They will hold some form of Hollywood made resentment in confusing this for reality. On top of it, it crucifies a guy who simply made a mistake. Yes I'm sure no one else has made them. Throw your stones. But in the head of the moment, he just choked. That part is just brushed under the rug like it was purposeful action. Which makes this film irresponsible. Hollywood movies would do good to stop trying to be political and distorting reality and calling it real life. Just tell a story. If you have to sell a movie on anything other than a story, it just isn't very good.
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Begins as a brilliant character study then has an underwhelming message given what it had the potential for.
Sergeant_Tibbs3 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Half way through the year and Fruitvale Station is looking to be the indie favourite of the Oscar season and its first hour quite deserves the hype. It begins with the shocking and raw real footage of the event the film documents and leaves the rest of the film on the strong dramatic irony that after these 24 hours all these characters lives will change and none of their plans will come to fruition. With this irony it makes the excellent character study all the more fascinating. Michael B. Jordan is terrific as Oscar Grant, giving a subtle convention-defying performance and he's well supported by Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. I came to feel truly involved with Oscar, especially due to the intimate photography and detailed writing. It's very impressive work from such a young filmmaker who's the same age as the real Oscar Grant.

However, as the film appears to set up a lot of meaningful things in the first hour, in hindsight, they feel aimless. I thought the setups were great. The way Oscar lies but has strong paternal instincts. He's been to prison but he's kind at heart. He's cheated and flirts but he's close to all generations of his family. It's touching and each scene gives him more depth. This is why it's such a painful shame that by the time the film reaches the Fruitvale station scene that all of the potential setups are thrown away in favor of chaotic sentimentality. I'm not sure if Coogler is trying to say that it's because of the content of Oscar's character is why he was put in that situation with both his good sides and bad sides. But the ruckus that puts him in the spotlight is instigated by something that's set up earlier in the film in a blink-and-miss-it scene and renders the whole sequence very confusing.

Sure, what happened to the real Oscar was very sad and I'm certain that it felt chaotic to everyone who witnessed it but I can't help but feel that Coogler ended up not knowing what he wanted to say with the film. It can't possibly be about racial issues because there's not enough development on that. It can't be about injustice regarding police because it's only present for about 5 minutes. Maybe the film could've been saved if it showed the remaining characters trying to cope but it leaves on a hopeless note. It's unfortunate that Coogler turns an intelligent fascinating character study into a flat unpleasant sadfest and it renders the power of the emotions unsatisfying. Maybe this is what he wants us to feel, but I believe the film could've been way better than that. Oh well, at least we have the first hour with the brilliant Michael B. Jordan.

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What is with all the great reviews?
djo_3428 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It's a true story. It is a semi-tragic event. You already know the ending. I thought there would be some background and character development that would make me truly compassionate and empathetic. Alas, no. Here is a 22-year-old convict with a young child. Not one decision was made in his life with any concept of consequence. He gets his girlfriend pregnant as a teenager. He goes to prison for dealing drugs. He cheats on his girlfriend. He loses his job. All of these events in his life were avoidable. They were CHOICE. So as much as I want to root for him, I find myself not caring. You have to take most of the story with a grain of salt. The story is highlighting the BEST of Oscar Grant, and still the character portrayed is a selfish, irresponsible loser. So when he is killed, regardless of the method in which it occurred, I don't feel a thing. I actually feel that society is better off without him. The acting is solid. The direction is pretty good. The story is simply not uplifting or inspiring.
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Where's the Story?
sniperx36025 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I have read a lot of reviews and acclaim for this film and when I finally got around to watching was very underwhelmed. There is so much praise for Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. These two actors do a great job. I do not think either of them are Oscar-winning, but perhaps Oscar-nominating. Michael B. Jordan's performance is great, but that alone is no reason to see this movie, instead, just watch Chronicle where he is still great (although, compared to Dane DeHann in Chronicle nobody in that movie is a great actor). There is no doubt that this story is tragic. A loss of life is still a loss of life, especially when the incident is an accident, it's just not a very good film.

This film is very confidently made and it shows. The direction and acting is certainly there, there are just two main issues that I cannot stand. First of all, the film has no story. This is based on a quick incident that was caught on some cell phone footage, nothing to make a full length feature film out of, a one hour documentary would have been fine. They spend a little over the first two thirds of this film leading up to the events, all of which really don't matter. The only reason for this is to get a sense of the character, but that doesn't work because of my second reason. This film is completely, 100%, biased. This story makes Oscar out to be a saint Now, I knew nothing about anything relating to this film before seeing it. They spend so much time trying to force his likableness down our throats and it just seems too pushy.

I have no problem when a film is biased on one side, it is just when it is based on real events that I really cannot stand this. This is not like Batman where we are supposed to be biased to one side. This is a story that rather than exploring options, takes every single route to Oscar and injustice. This is not one of those films where there is an antagonist who is the film's protagonist, like Law Abiding Citizen, and taking the biased route only causes more problems than it solves.

Upon exploring more into this, I have come to the conclusion that this whole incident is just a series of mistakes taken on both sides. The cops were too aggressive, but so was Oscar. The cop then responded as he should and taze him in order to relax him, but upon a mistake, grabbed his weapon and wound up killing him. This film makes it out so that every step was wrongfully taken by the cops and there was no justice. If you ask me, I'd say justice was served. The cop who fired the shot was sentenced for two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and wound up getting out in 11 months. This seems a bit too short for what happened, but I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason made by the people who study law rather than the person sitting on his computer.

Ultimately, a well made movie does not make it a great movie. I had the same problem with The Conjuring, a very well made movie, but lacking in so many other aspects that I could not stand it.

This is a great story that would be a very interesting documentary, but I would only recommend this film strictly for its confident approach in filmmaking.
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Overall good execution, with plain narrative which lacks statement
Arit29 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a good film with great acting all around, directed by an emerging, enthusiastic filmmaker. With that being said, there is nothing special about its storytelling that makes it stand out.

First, the film starts with a "Based on a true story" disclaimer, which adds nothing but confusion to its content. The director has admitted that 'Katie' does not represent a real-life individual but a composite of multiple people, which implies that he has brought significant dramatization. Given that many narrative films today are inspired more or less by true events, this opening message only makes you wonder how much of the story is actually true.

Second, the film ends with a sequence of text-only frames which forces you to read multiple pages about what happens afterwards. A simple gimmick of, for example, adding actual still images to the background, or showing newspaper headlines, would have made this sequence more effective. Such creativity should be a no-brainer in this digital age, when everyone is equipped with a video-capable device, ready to become an instant YouTube correspondent in case of an emergency, as clearly demonstrated by this very film.

Last but not least, the film refuses to make any statement or offer any new insight, and you are eventually left to wonder what message to take away from it. It is a rather plain recreation of serial events, the fidelity of which is not even guaranteed. "Fruitvale" is ultimately saved by the splendid performances of its cast, adequate pacing, and high-adrenaline content, but left with much to be desired in the top-level concept.
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Maybe A Short Film Would Have Sufficed
3xHCCH4 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
For a feature film, "Fruitvale Station" is not really long, just an hour and fifteen minutes. However, with the limited story, maybe it would have been more effective as a live-action short film instead.

This film tells us the story of an ex-con Oscar Grant who is trying his best to get back on his feet after his stint in jail. However on one New Year's Eve 2008, he gets involved in an altercation with policemen in a BART train station, which had a bloody and tragic outcome.

While Michael B. Jordan does a good enough job as Oscar Grant, he does not exactly do anything extraordinary which we have not seen before. Octavia Spencer flashes her Oscar-winning acting style in the short moments she is on screen as Oscar's mother.

After we see the last fifteen minutes at the BART station, the first hour or so leading to the fateful day felt rather empty. It is a very sad violent event that never should have happened, yes. But the movie never really lifted off being a simple crime scene reenactment.
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Should have been a short
Chris L19 January 2014
Fruitvale Station, in an ultra minimalistic approach and a slowness almost caricatural of the « indie » scene, tries to humanize this tragedy by depicting the victim in his best light, but this process is too simplistic, too obvious, and no real sympathy arouses for Oscar.

Granted, the ouctome itself is tragic but everything that is related before, those contemplative day-to-day life scenes, has no direct connection with it and 90% of the script therefore turn out to be almost pointless, and though the film lasts only 1h25, it seems long.

Fruitvale Station probably would have been more relevant as a short feature since there wasn't much material for more.
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Screened at Sundance
M. Brand29 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The premise of the movie is what drew me to this screening. Unfortunately, the storytelling was sub-par. The characters were transparent, and without depth. The abundance of overly positive life altering changes of the main character was simply not believable. We are led to believe that this once extremely flawed character is almost entirely without flaws leading up to that fateful night. The handful of supporting characters were lackluster, with only hints of hidden talent. While the film had the look of a very well made student film, it didn't exactly scream out that this is a writer/director to watch. Upon leaving this screening, my only regret was that I hadn't gone to a different screening. On a side note; Forest Whitaker's name has been thrown around with this film. While he is listed as a producer on the film (the very last producer credit), it would appear that the only real association with Forest Whitaker is that the film was made because of a financial grant issued by him.
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The Ultimate Litmus Test for Critics
McMurphy13 June 2014
A fantastic litmus test for evaluating the credibility and credulity of its reviewers.

Amazing how many "critics" fell for this manipulative scam of a movie.


Because, unless you let your emotions stifle your reasoning, you can't help but wonder (1) how all the apparent good deeds were "true" WITHOUT WITNESSES, and (2) whether there'd be a story otherwise (somehow I don't think an ex-con getting shot by a rookie cop would sell many tickets unless he happen to become a Saint on the same day).

From the protagonist being the "victim" after losing his job, to the fictitious good deeds, I could pick this movie apart like rotisserie chicken.
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Nice film-work, but unbalanced, a bit tedious to watch. Should have been a Short.
jimojimo8 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie would have made a good short-film, possibly a good extended nightly-news piece (and I imagine there were many of those--but not done with this level of careful treatment).

It tells the story of yet another case of police/security overreacting to a situation with very tragic results. I probably don't need to go too much into the plot--it's very simple (Possible spoiler--but again, the plot is probably well publicized): Young man gets thrust into a situation that gets out of control; cops/security descend upon the resulting chaos, during which a shot is fired (accidentally or on purpose) and tragedy results.

However, as a movie, it as simply too unevenly paced--the first 1:15 or so is very slow setup of Oscar's life and relationships. In my opinion, it was just too much setup (not minimizing the importance of this especially to his loved ones, just looking at this from a film-goer's standpoint) for the relatively chaotic and rushed 10 or so minutes of the final act.

The cinematography is well done, it has a quasi-documentary feel to it, some hand-held shots, etc. and it's clear there was a lot of care and thought put into the scenes depicting Oscar's life. The story is worthy of being told, yet stepping back and trying to take an objective look at this as a commercial film, I think it simply would have been better as a short with the first hour or so trimmed a fair amount. Jimo
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