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10/10
WHY YOU WANNA FLY BLACKBIRD?
nogodnomasters13 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)is a rap/hip-hop singer whose early life is semi-biographical. Her career is controlled by her driver mother (Minnie Driver). She clearly makes her money by being a rapper sex object than through her talents. Disillusioned with life, she attempts a take a dive off a balcony only to be rescued by officer Kazam Nicol which fuels a relationship.

Kaz is also being pushed by his father (Danny Glover) into a political career he doesn't really want.

The film is a romance which rejects the sexist rapper world in favor of finding your own voice. A little sappy at times and a bit formulaic. Lifetime fans will eat this up.

Guide : Brief sex scene. No nudity. 1 F-bomb that I recall.
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1/10
Cheap and obvious
HotToastyRag3 October 2021
A family member was reduced to tears when she described the plot of Beyond the Lights to me, she was so moved by the message of the story. Since she was someone for whom I had zero respect, I wasn't motivated by her recommendation. However, I ended up renting it later with the sole purpose of laughing at my relative; I wasn't disappointed.

Beyond the Lights is just a regular ol' cheap, obvious, lousy tv-movie about a singer - except it isn't a tv-movie. It was actually released in theaters and drew Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, and Danny Glover to the cast. The opening scene that was so emotional for my relative was stereotypical and trite: a little girl wins second place in a singing competition, and her perfectionist mother scolds her for failing then makes her destroy her trophy. Anyone over the age of fifteen should be mature enough to see that scene for what it is. Let alone a woman in her forties with young children of her own (whom she took to the theaters to see this movie, despite its sexual themes) who had years of therapy and self-help workshops under her belt.

The bulk of the movie shows the young girl all grown up. She's a popular singer but still has an inferiority complex because of her mother. It's a case of the old blame-game, where she can put all the fault onto her mom rather than maturing, getting over her past, and taking responsibility for her own actions. Instead, the moral of the story is that she needs to "find herself" by writing a new type of song and defy her mom by her choice of romantic partner. I really can't imagine anyone who's graduated from high school enjoying this movie. I can't imagine anyone besides teenaged boys "appreciating" the sexually titillating on-stage performances of the protagonist. The choreography was not symbolic (she was forced to be a sexual object for the masses because of her mother); it was just exploitation of the lead actress's nice figure and a way to get ticket sales.

Save your time, unless you're a high school girl who burst into tears by the mere recap of my synopsis. You won't like it.

Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to sexual content, I wouldn't let my kids watch it.
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Great lead performance
Red_Identity22 December 2014
My feelings on this are basically just like every other person who saw it. It does have some biting, realistic insight into just how cruel and harsh the entertainment industry is, but the romance and the narrative are quite predictable. I probably actually enjoyed it more than my rating, but it's just way too formulaic and it's a shame when it started off better and it could've just been something more. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is really the best thing about it, delivering her all and giving even her most cliché of scenes life and passion. She's very charismatic and has a very strong screen presence, I hope she gets more roles after this because she would certainly deserve it.
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8/10
under-rated, magnificently flawed, makes an impact
A_Different_Drummer1 March 2015
Movies about big stars who suffer a crisis of conscience are not exactly rare, but not exactly standard fare either. My fave is PURE COUNTRY with George Strait, and I reviewed it for the IMDb.

What is rare is taking that formula and mixing it into a rom-com. That involves a degree of daring on the part of the producers -- and, no coincidence, there are about a dozen individuals listed as producers in this film. That folks is courage in numbers.

Even the length is daring. The flick runs almost two hours and these days only the largest production companies have the nerve, or the dollars, to go to full length.

But, as I said, nerve is something this film has plenty of.

Does it pay off? If you want me to tell you this is a polished gem, sorry, it is anything but.

But if you are looking for something memorable and entertaining, you have come to the right place.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw -- a name that is hard to forget -- really works the part. Her performance raises this film far above the current IMDb rating. (She is helped by EXTRAORDINRY H&M,ie, hair & makeup, which in turn makes the transition from regular person to Rap Star all that much more startling).

Minnie Driver, usually a standout, is lost here. In fact, pretty much everyone plays second fiddle to Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, that is precisely why I recommend the film.
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4/10
Could have been better! 4/10
leonblackwood1 August 2015
Review: This is another one of those movies which had a great trailer but it turned out to be pretty disappointing. I thought that it was going to be like the hit series, the Empire but it turned out to be about a worldwide, music superstar who is struggling to fame and all of the attention from the media. With her new album due to come out soon, Noni craves normality in her life but her mum and her record company end up pushing her to the edge, which leads to her trying to commit suicide. At that moment, the cop that was protecting her, Kaz, comes to her rescue and the news hits the tabloids which puts there relationship under the microscope. After a while, the pressure becomes a bit too much for the couple, so they escape to Mexico were they deeply fall in love with each other, against Kaz's dad and Noni's mums wishes. It isn't long before Noni is spotted in Mexico so she has to return to her demanding pop career. By this time, she has turned a corner in her personal life and she seeks more control in her music career. Her new boyfriend thinks it's a bad idea for her to return to that life because he saw how much it was destroying her. From there the movie seemed like it was going round and round in circles and I was hoping for a major twist or something interesting to happen. The main character, Noni, just seemed like a spoilt brat who needed some decent guidance. The cop also seemed quite dull and easily influenced by his father so the characters didn't help this predictable storyline. Basically, it reminded a lot of the Bodyguard which was a much better movie because Whitney was actually a true superstar. I liked the fact that the director was showing the life of a star through there eyes, but the storyline dried up after a while and it became quite boring. Watchable but nothing that amazing!

Round-Up: I wasn't that impressed with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who played Noni, because I failed to have an emotional connection to her character. Thats not totally to blame on her performance because she did try to make her character seem real but the film seemed to have skipped the important parts of her career, like her road to stardom. At 32, she has starred in movies like Jupiter Ascending, Odd Thomas, Straightheads and Larry Crowne but I doubt that people will remember her in any of those movies! She played the lead in Belle pretty well and she has a role in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast movie so she might hit her peak around then. Nate Parker has made about 20 movies in his career which started in 2005 in Cruel World. He has made appearances in Non-Stop, Pride, The Great Debaters, Red Tails, Arbitage and Ain't Them Bodies Saints and at 35 years old, I'm sure that were going to see him more on the big screen. The director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, also directed the Secret Life Of Bees, which I quite enjoyed, Love & Basketball and a couple of episodes of the Bernie Mac Show and Everybody Hates Chris so she hasn't had loads of experience behind the camera. She did do quite a good job with this movie but I did find the storyline sketchy and uninteresting after a while.

Budget: $7million Worldwide Gross: $15million

I recommend this movie to people who are into their drama/romances about a music superstar who struggles with fame and media attention, until she falls in love with her bodyguard which changes her life. 4/10
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6/10
Pop Music Chick Flick
stevendbeard28 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I saw "Beyond the Lights", starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw-Undercovers_t.v., Larry Crowne; Nate Parker-Non-Stop, Red Tails; Minnie Driver-About a Boy_t.v., Grosse Pointe Blank and Danny Glover-Death at a Funeral, Dreamgirls.

I was a little reluctant to see this movie and sadly, I was not disappointed. Of course, I am not the target audience, what with it being a chick flick, but I'll try my best to be objective. Gugu plays an up and coming pop singer. Minnie is the perfect definition of a stage mother-if you looked in a dictionary, you would see Minnie's picture beside the definition. You could say that Minnie wants Gugu's success more that Gugu does. One night, after winning an award, all the pressures of the pop star life and her mother's constant presence, Gugu drinks a little too much and tries to jump off a balcony. Luckily, the policeman that is assigned to her, Nate, is on hand to save her life, and of course, they fall in love as Nate tries to help straighten out Gugu and her problems. Danny plays Nate's father, who also is a policeman. If you like chick flicks, then this one is not too bad. Gugu does sing a few songs that are not too bad. Plus, how can you not like someone with a name like Gugu? It sounds like you are talking to a baby- Goo Goo-but she definitely doesn't look like a baby. It's rated "PG-13" for language and sexual content-including partial nudity-and has a running time of 1 hour & 56 minutes. Like I said, I'm not the target audience, so I would not buy it on DVD. However, if you are so inclined to chick flicks, it would be alright as a rental.
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7/10
Gina delivers a solid and entertaining character driven romance
estebangonzalez109 June 2015
"Do you want to be a runner up, or do you want to be a winner?"

Fifteen minutes into Beyond the Lights and I was about to dismiss Gina Prince- Bythewood's film as yet another formulaic celebrity romance trying to be this generation's The Bodyguard. But after the story and the characters were introduced, I realized there was much more to the simple premise. This is a character driven film and despite the familiar premise the movie is carried by the wonderful performances from the cast and their well written characters. Gina uses a familiar tale but manages to give each character their very own identity and that takes the story to unfamiliar dramatic territory avoiding the common clichés found in modern romance movies. Bythewood made an impact in 2000 with her feature film debut, Love & Basketball and she followed the success of that movie with The Secret Life of Bees. Beyond the Lights is her third feature film, and it made such an impact on me that I want to see her two previous movies now. It's not easy to find intelligent romantic films nowadays with strong performances, so that makes me appreciate Beyond the Lights all that more for avoiding cheap clichés and deciding to focus on the characters and giving them depth instead of simply trying to deliver cheesy lines and force romantic moments. Every character in this film could've very easily played a stereotype, but Gina avoids it by giving each one of them their own moment.

Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a young and talented British R&B singer who is on the verge of becoming an international super star thanks to her collaborations with rapper Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly) with whom she shares a relationship with. On the night in which they win an important music award for their hit single, Noni tries to commit suicide by jumping off from the hotel balcony, but she's saved by the police officer who was guarding her room. Kaz (Nate Parker) is an honest cop who is trying to make a difference in his community and is aspiring to be a politician by following the advice of his father, Captain Nicol (Danny Glover), a well respected man in the police force. After the balcony incident Noni's mother and agent, Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) downplays the suicide attempt by telling the media that her daughter was simply drunk and therefore almost fell over the balcony. Kaz isn't happy about having to lie to the media, but he is more concerned about Noni not trying to get help because it is evident that the pressure has gotten to her, and her mother isn't helping by downplaying the issue. He gets close to Noni, and it is evident that the two have chemistry, but she doesn't seem like a good fit for his political aspirations given the latest scandals she's been in and the sexy image she's selling. At the same time he realizes that this isn't who she really is and that her mother and recording label producers are simply creating her image and not allowing her to have her own voice. When he discovers who she truly is, the two become romantically involved and the plot takes off from there.

Minnie Driver's character could have easily been one dimensional playing this mean and controlling mom/manager, but Gina avoids those stereotypes and gives her more room to work with despite how easy it is to dislike her for turning her daughter into this sex symbol product. This is just one example of how Gina decides to direct this character driven film giving each one a voice of their own. Another director perhaps wouldn't of included those small moments or conversations where we get a sense of why the character behaves in such a way.

Nate Parker delivers a solid lead performance as this credible and likable young man who is trying to make a difference in his community, but it's Gugu who steals every scene she's in. At first she seems to be playing a similar character to Rihanna, but once she finds her own voice her character goes through an impressive transformation. She gives an explosive and emotional performance and wins everyone over with her wonderful voice. There is a scene where she sings a cappella in an outdoor bar in Mexico that is breathtaking and gripping at the same time. My only complaint is that the film does lose some of its steam towards the end of the movie, but the time spent with each one of these characters still made this a very enjoyable experience.

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8/10
The song "Blackbird" is taken from a pirated album which is . . .
pixrox117 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
. . . considered one of the least accomplished by the late singer Nina Simone. Therefore, it is ironic during a weekend when many of pop's biggest stars are Boo-Hooing over "how little" they are paid when their songs are streamed to fans from cyberspace that the bootlegged ditty "Blackbird" would be the centerpiece of a movie about a fictional female singer trying to break away from The Machine. Doubling the sense of bittersweetness is the fact that an earlier Bio-Pic paying homage to Simone herself played recently at the Cannes Film Festival, but was NOT picked up for distribution. If you look at pictures of the Real Life Simone, you'll discover why this all seems so bogus. It's just another case of Hollywood Lookism. Simone was much darker hued than her on-screen Wannabe Noni in BEYOND THE LIGHTS, when the Mariah Carey look is all the rage today. She was also bigger-boned, and not up to all the bump-and-grinding in costumes consisting of strings and chains, to which Noni is so prone in LIGHTS. This flick essentially remakes THE BODYGUARD, which was the late Whitney Houston's zenith in 1992. Let's hope that Noni's portrayer--Gugu Raw--survives Hollywood longer than Ms. Houston did.
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5/10
Not that good for me
Seraphion25 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The story focuses on Noni, an British female R&B singer of mixed race parents who struggled against a heavier burden of competition with the racial prejudice on her. Now all grown up, she has made it in the USA, a famous and successful singer, now the girlfriend of a famous rapper. But she feels she's only being taken advantages of and not being considered as a person. After winning an award one night, she instead tries to commit suicide by jumping from her apartment balcony. A police officer Kaz, who was replacing a friend for a bodyguard detail, steps in and helps her from falling. Although Kaz initially avoids Noni because he was forced to lie at a subsequent press conference, they eventually become close. Kaz convinces Noni to be more courageous and stand up for herself, to have her boyfriend treat her better, and to insist that her songs be included in her next album. She musters up courage and softly breaks up with the rapper. Noni and Kaz then hook up and become a couple.

But at a performance, the rapper comes on stage and humiliate Noni. Kaz goes on stage and eventually punches him on camera. Kaz's father scolds him for that due to it will damage Kaz's reputation for an upcoming candidacy at an important office. Kaz ignores it and helps to smuggle Noni out of the press' attention. They then go to have some time alone down in Mexico. Noni really enjoys the situation where she's not known and can roam freely without photographers following her. But her mother finds their place. She convinces her to finish the album promo, despite Kaz's disagreement. Noni goes back to attend a recording label meeting about her album. She demands her songs to be put in it, to the disapproval of the label. Noni then declares she resigns from the label, also discharging her mother from the position of her manager. She then goes back to to UK to perform. Kaz goes there and meets her in the back- stage, where he confirms his love for her. Noni continues on to her performance, singing her own new song instead of the one requested on her.

For me the story only has slightly less than adequate appeal to it in overall. The story isn't that strong in total. Even the emotional parts of it don't seem to hit the spot right. The background story is quite moving, but development of Kaz's background and his dilemma between of the position is quite strange. The rest of the other characters beside the two main characters are also not really developed well. Noni's mother has a significant portion to the story but we don't really see much of her in substantial story screen time. The opposite happens to Kaz's father, who has more than enough screen time despite his more insignificant role in the story.

Yes this movie can quite grasp the drama aspect that it targets. All those emotional content are well built on the foundation of the racial prejudice thing and even on the gender inequality thing later on. But truthfully, that's just it. The romance that should be another nice focus for this movie doesn't seem to be a good attention grabber. I really think this movie should be developed even way more better before it's realized.

The acting overall falls slightly below my expectations. For such an emotional aim of the story, the acting quality is not really that good. Gugu Mbatha-Raw doesn't seem to realize that she has so much close-up shots on her that she doesn't showcase a great variation in facial expressions, even in the music video and stage performance scenes. Nate Parker is as similar, his face is dominantly flat in all conditions of the scenes. Having Minnie Driver and Danny Glover doesn't help at all in raising the acting quality overall.

For me, a 5 out of 10 score is just enough for this movie. It sure can be a better entertainment provided that the story development doesn't just leave this undercooked tale like this and the direction can lift the acting better.
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7/10
Mbatha-Raw is a Rising Star
larrys33 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing Gugu Mbatha-Raw's performance in "Belle" recently and now viewing her rather dazzling screen charisma here, she would certainly seem to be a rising star.

She gives a superb performance as Noni Jean, a skyrocketing musical talent, living the fairy tale life of a superstar, being followed everywhere by adoring fans and relentless paparazzi. However, despite all the glitz and glamor, deep inside Noni is quite depressed and unhappy.

Her every move, both in her personal and professional life, is being controlled by her extremely domineering mother Macy. Minnie Driver is terrific in the role of Macy, being totally believable. Noni is so down that on the night she wins her first Billboard Award, she attempts suicide off of a hotel balcony, before being saved at the last minute by the police officer assigned for her security.

Nate Parker is also excellent here as the principled police officer Kaz Nicol who saves her life. He's also dealing with a highly controlling parent (Danny Glover), with his father planning out his life so he'll eventually run for political office and have a career in that field.

Noni and Kaz will begin to build a bond, but can these two souls living in two very different worlds overcome the pressures of their controlling parents, the media, and record companies to form a lasting relationship? Just a note for the viewers: there are a number of highly provocative and suggestive dance routines, from the first scenes onward, which have sexual connotations, plus one or two actual sex scenes in the film which are not explicit.

The very talented filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees) ably handles the writing and direction here, and I really felt I got a vivid feel of what it's like to be a rising superstar in that environment.

This is not a perfect film by any means, but the strong acting, appealing soundtrack, and a rousing and heart-felt finale win the day here.
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6/10
Satisfying tale about being true to yourself, despite being somewhat clichéd and predictable
brchthethird28 March 2015
I can't say that was ecstatic about seeing BEYOND THE LIGHTS because it just seemed like a 21st century update of THE BODYGUARD, but for what it's worth, despite being narratively uneven and weighed down with clichés, it still is a compelling portrait of what goes on behind the scenes of people who are in the public eye. It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni Jean, a cookie-cutter pop star who specializes in the oversexed, over-produced crap that tops the charts these days. One night, after winning an award for her latest single, she attempts suicide but is saved by the officer (Nate Parker) assigned to protect her that evening. From that point, a romantic relationship develops between them as they each figure out how to break out of the mold that other people have tried to keep them in, and begin to think and act for themselves. On paper, that sounds pretty good generally speaking, the film does a good job exploring those themes. The real standout of the cast is Gugu Mbatha-Raw who brings a youthful quality and emotional honesty to a character who, initially, is asked to do a lot of degrading things for the sake of "image." Her mother, played by Minnie Driver, also does a great job as this domineering, controlling personality who micro-manages her daughter's life. One begins to wonder who exactly she wants the career and the fame for: her daughter or herself. It's because of these qualities that she is an extremely unlikeable character, yet there is one stripped down scene in which another, sweeter side is shown and you get a little back story on why she is the way she is. Nate Parker also acquits himself rather nicely, although he and his storyline about being an aspiring politician are mostly sidelined in favor of Noni, although to be fair she is the main character. It would have been nicer for the story to be a little more balanced in that regard, but the juxtaposition of his and Gugu Mbatha-Raw's characters was established well enough. Sadly, all is not well with the film. It succumbs to a lot of the narrative clichés that plague films revolving around music and romance. Fortunately, there is a segment about halfway in which a much-needed break is taken from it all, in which Noni and Kaz get some one-on-one time. There were also a handful of moments that made me laugh unintentionally, such as when Noni takes Kaz on his first flight and they make love to Beyonce's song "Drunk in Love." And then there's Noni's label partner and sort-of boyfriend Kid who was a collection of "white rapper" stereotypes who made me cringe every time he opened his mouth. Overall, the positive elements do outweigh the negative and the film delivers a satisfying story about being true to yourself.
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7/10
.. don't pass on it.. it just works
bjarias27 April 2015
This is a surprisingly good film.. with a reasonable storyline.. good casting/ acting.. above average production values... and a music score that fits the overall tone/ setting of the film. All in all, this is well done movie-making .. above most all others in the genre. There are not many surprises, but all else works, so that all time spent is fairly solid entertainment. And a couple of moments are truly special.. her rendition of Blackbird near the end is spellbinding.. few could do it as well.. casting her was genius. And kudos to the camera and editing crews.. seconds can make or break a good film. For romantic dramas from this year, this has to be considered one of the best.
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7/10
Nice story about love and finding yourself - Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines
ArchonCinemaReviews22 February 2015
Part love story, part drama, and all music industry realness, Beyond the Lights is the modern day The Bodyguard with better looking actors.

Gina Prince-Bythewood writes and directs Beyond the Lights – her most recent film project that weaves love and ambition.

Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is on the path for super-stardom – featured on several tracks with top rapper Kid Culprit. She's playing the game, being notorious and selling an image and even has the token Mom-ager (Minnie Driver), but creatively feels like she is drowning. Unable to cope she tries to jump off a balcony when her police protection for the evening Kaz (Nate Parker) rescues her. There is an instant attraction and connection and as Noni searches to find the courage to break free from the music industry's control she finds herself gravitating more and more to Kaz.

Despite the glitz and glamor and mirage of the entertainment industry being the setting for the film, Beyond the Lights is a relatable story of finding love and independence. The similarities between Prince-Blythewoods creations and films like The Bodyguard is striking but what sets Beyond the Lights apart is inherent chemistry between Mbatha-Raw and Parker along with the top notch acting and direct plot line.

Both Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and captivating, commanding the audience's attention and near daring them to be bored enough for their minds to wander. Of the two, Mbatha-Raw is superior and perfect in playing a music darling with 'it'. Nate Parker tries to match his co-star's innate acting ability but occasionally falls short, lacking range in his facial expression and defaulting to a generically pained grimace for most 'negative' emotions.

Of course, Beyond the Lights is a romantic film so it does periodically dip into predictable and sentimental. But, none of the drama is drawn out and writer/director Gina Prince-Blythewood smartly focuses on her well formed characters rather than the events that surround them.

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10/10
is fame all you are?
jawneyfloros10 November 2018
Review: I really enjoyed this movie because it shows that you have to be true to yourself. The direction and screenplay are both really good. Both the casting and acting are really good also. All in all I would give this five out of a possible five stars.
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9/10
Everything "The Bodyguard" should have been and wasn't
mgconlan-127 November 2018
GREAT movie, one of the best recent films I've seen lately. The basic situation is reminiscent of "The Bodyguard" -- superstar singer falls in love with the man who saved her life (in this story it's from a suicide attempt) and the two have a touch-and-go relationship -- but this time it's done far, far better. The characters of Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Kaz (Nate Parker) have real depth and complexity, and writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood brilliantly counterpoints their troubled relationships with their parents. Both Noni's mom (MInnie Driver) and Kaz's dad (Danny Glover) have ambitions for them that aren't always what the kids themselves want, and their struggles to get out of their parental cocoons add weight and drama to what otherwise could have been either a sappy romantic comedy or a depressing melodrama. The ending is a bit weak, but otherwise "Beyond the Lights" is a wonderful film, sensitively written, effectively directed and vividly acted. (Who were the idiots at Sony who dumped this project because they didn't think Gugu Mbatha-Raw could play the female lead? She's wonderful!) I caught up with this on a clearance-sale DVD and didn't have much hope for it, but I'm glad I saw it and heartily recommend it to anyone.
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8/10
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Mesmerizing
herbqedi16 December 2014
She also starred in Belle and totally captivated me with her intensity and ability to convey multi-layered and complex feelings of varied intensities. After seeing Beyond the Lights, I am even more impressed with her abilities and ever-refining raw talent. The entire cast was very good - especially co-lead Nate Parker who managed to overcome some of his sermonizing dialog to make his officer with political ambitions by-way-of-his-father become a bit more real than the cliché the writing of his character set him up for. The actors playing Trey and Liam worked well off each other in the group-think mindset of the music industry.

Minnie Driver has been one of my favorite under-utilized actresses for a long time. Her Hell-bent on Success Manager/Mother had unusual layers of complexity and dimension for what would normally be a well-worn stereotype. Danny Glover brought some of his magic and personality to elevate his character beyond being an equal and opposite meddling and domineering force, despite the limitations given to him by the scriptwriter.

I thought the auteur fares better as director with excellently telling visuals and as author of the story's "book" than as a dialog writer - especially for her male characters. The good news is that she allowed her actors enough freedom to work past the clichés.

Overall 8/10 - well worth seeing.
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8/10
Undeniably cheesy, but leaves an impression
Hallelujah2893 May 2019
"Beyond the Lights" starts off strong with Minnie Driver traumatizing her daughter after winning second place at a school talent show competition. Minnie is domineering and ambitious where her daughter is fragile and willing to please. However Minnie's one-track mind brings her daughter overwhelming, but terrible compromising success. After a milestone Billboard top song award Minnie's daughter and client, now going by the name Noni (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), decides to commit suicide. The older Noni is charming, desirable, and totally out of control of her life. Her bodyguard helps her from the ledge and the two romance.

What I've described is the first ten minutes of a two hour film. Does it maintain momentum? Yes. Is it predictable? Yes. Is there flaws? Also yes. But is it a dramatic, glamorous, heartfelt and sweet film? I think so.

"Beyond the Lights" follows the transition of fictional pop singer Noni from sex object to soul singer, but more importantly from an inauthentic musician and person to an authentic one. Unhappy with her cutthroat mother/agent, trashy co-star Kid Culprit and constant paparazzi, she clings onto her honest bodyguard for hope.

Their romance has "The Bodyguard" feels for sure, but they both read as very modern and this makes up for it. Noni's wardrobe in particular is incredibly fashion forward and up-to-date. Her styling reminds me of Rhianna. Mbatha-Raw as Noni is heartbreaking in her loneliness, but also absolutely believable as unattainable sex fantasy pop star. Her attraction is palpable and it's no wonder Nate Parker as the bodyguard looks smitten.

What is less believable though is Parker's bodyguard/cop/upcoming politician arc. His storyline is the weak spot in "Beyond the Lights." It's too expedited to feel realistic, especially as Noni's career is shown to have developed over ten years instead of a couple weeks in her bodyguard's case. Parker is fine as Noni's semi-reluctant lover. He is sweet-tempered and hot, and also respectful of Noni. However beyond this Parker lacks the same depth as Mbatha-Raw and also has less to play against. Mbatha-Raw has Minnie Driver for contrast.

Minnie Driver delivers a strong performance as selfish but hapless mother and hardened agent. One feels her character is pigeonholed however. She has less chance to show any kind of vulnerability that isn't used against her. Driver plays a good villain, but one feels with her acting chops she ought to have been given more to work with to show her dimension. I felt a bit of missed opportunity there.

I liked "Beyond the Lights." It had exciting, dynamic moments, but I felt some of the plot resolutions weren't fully earned. This prevents me from giving a higher rating, but I want to recommend "Beyond the Lights" as having truly standout aspects, especially in the portrayal by Mbatha-Raw. Although I was underwhelmed by some plot devices I admit "Beyond the Lights" did leave me changed. It has made me aware of how pop culture can sometimes mythologize a person while at the same time erasing their soul. It's a scary thought, but "Beyond the Lights" takes an honest and caring look, even if the result is cheesy.
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8/10
A Thought-Provoking Twisting Of Fame And Fortune
blakiepeterson2 May 2015
"It seems as though Jessie J has been thrust into the spotlight without any warning," Matthew Perpetua writes in his crushing Pitchfork review of Jessie J's 2011 album Who You Are. "There's an uncomfortable inevitability about her sudden stardom." These days, new pop stars seem to enter the musical landscape out of nowhere, some of them a breath of fresh air (Lorde, Charli XCX) and some of them almost uncomfortably manufactured (Rita Ora, and ahem, Jessie J). If you land a verse on some nameless rapper's hit or Dr. Luke likes your stuff, you may as well say goodbye to humanity and welcome the burgeoning effects of becoming a pop culture product.

Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), unfortunately, falls under the manufactured category. She's an echo of Rihanna's easily identifiable persona, but without the personality and the individuality to match. Regardless, her album is about to drop, and industry experts are saying that first-week sales will set records. But all the press, all the attention, isn't what she wants. She's sick and tired of her life even though it has hardly even begun. In just the first few minutes of Beyond the Lights, we find her sitting on a top-story balcony ledge, contemplating whether she should jump or not.

When we first meet her, she is just a little girl, awkward and entering in a local singing competition. All the other girls look like Dance Moms knockoffs, crappily dancing to crappy songs in crappy costumes. But Noni, in her outdated glasses and elementary school clothes, sings Nina Simone's "Blackbird" a cappella. We get chills, but she finds herself in the shoes of the runner-up. She turns to her mother (Minnie Driver), sitting in the audience: anger is evident in her eyes.

Jump about 16 years into the future, she's the cover model for Complex and other assorted music magazines. As far as we know, Noni's mother has been pushing her to be the next Whitney while Noni passively goes along with it, secretly desiring to be a sort of Erykah for the next generation. The result should be some Mommie Dearest and Gypsy combination, but strange things have happened to Beyond the Lights. For its been-there-done-that storyline, it is lucky enough to have a talented director at its front and a well-versed screenplay to make its melancholy real. There are so many things it should be, things you expect to be, one of them being cheesy, for starters. But Beyond the Lights genuinely moved me. It is not a satire of the music industry but a character study of a young woman who has never been able to find herself because she's been told what to say and think for so long.

The film eventually goes into The Bodyguard territory (Noni falls for her soft-spoken hotel room guard), but it never loses its footing. For a film surrounded by such a materialistic world, it's surprising emotionally rounded. Mbatha-Raw gives such a terrific performance that we feel as though we really do know Noni, better than her mother and better than the industry. There isn't a second we don't understand the hurt lingering in her eyes. She doesn't know what she wants, but she certainly doesn't want this.

There's a scene in which Noni holds a press conference regarding what the paparazzi are calling a suicide attempt. It was a suicide attempt, and she needs help, but with the pressure of her mother and the record company watching her every move, she has to put on a dinky routine that characterizes her as a ditz who sits on ledges when she wears five-inch heels and has a few too many drinks. Mbatha-Raw is so convincing that we begin to wonder if how much we know about our beloved pop stars is actually something they wanted to share. What's hiding behind their Twitter feeds that bear more emojis than thoughts of authenticity?

The climax of Beyond the Lights finds Noni shedding her purple weave and hazardously gleaming plastic nails in trade of her natural hair and a clean face. Though the scene is played silently, the emotional power comes with the consuming nature of a tidal wave. It's the first moment in Noni's life that she's had control over her looks. In truth, though, Beyond the Lights is a storm of deeply felt feelings, and we can't help but feel something too. The ending may be too forced for my taste (Noni graces a small stage at a music festival and becomes Corinne Bailey Rae when I would have preferred a more interesting Kelela type), but the film is startlingly good, cruelly overlooked when it shouldn't have been.

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4/10
Viva Gugu
thefan-29 August 2015
At one point in this cold mess of a movie, Noni's mother, played by Minnie, shouts, "You're a bloody cliché!" Bingo, Minnie, Noni, Gugu et al., you're ALL bloody clichés. There's the spoiled little pop star who has absofreakinlutely everything a girl could want, except true love and the will to live. There's the harridanish stage mom whose nastiness translates to excellent negotiating skills with music industry execs. There's the impossibly dull love interest - a cop who aspires to be a city councilman, just writing that made me yawn.

What made it a little bit interesting for me was the way the black characters were all good and the white characters were all either evil or incompetent. Me, I'm Italian; my grandparents came to the USA 60 years after the American Civil War ended, so you guys fight it out amongst yourselves, please. It was just nice to see the caucasians get theirs for a change.

Btw, the music doesn't even try to be good.
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4/10
Gugu vs clichés
davek2830 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Other than gorgeous Gugu, this is a collection of clichés strung end to end. All the mandatory scenes are there, including the breakdown, the on-stage embarrassment, the beach montage, the hair removal (normally using scissors but this time removing extensions), and many, many more. The writer must have read the Hollywood Big Book of Clichés.

I rented this DVD simply because Gugu is in it, and hoped that it would at least be okay. But it's not. It's just pants. I actually skipped through some of the clichés without missing a thing.

Minnie Driver is pretty good, and it's nice to hear British accents for a change. But it's an afternoon TV chick-flick, not a thriller, blockbuster or art film.

I still love Gugu and I forgive her, but I'm going to forget this pile of poo as fast as I can - which will be very easy.
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8/10
A Must-See Love Story!
ikeybabe30 November 2015
This was lovely, uplifting, entertaining and absolutely terrific! I totally loved this film. I was so pleasantly surprised. It wasn't what I expected. It's not a black love story - it's a LOVE story where the characters just happen to be black. Mbatha and Parker played their roles exceptionally well. They were endearing and flawed, bemused and brave and they portrayed the star and the cop to perfection. Driver was terrific as the evil, money-grabbing mom-manager. Oh yeah, and the movie was cool too. The film had the right feel, budget, cinematography, dialogue and dramatic twists. Everyone should see this movie, really, I mean everyone!!
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5/10
Everybody loves me, my life is so hard, wah wah wah
sunchick116-872-58338310 December 2016
I resent the people who think this is a chick flick. Maybe it is but I'm a 30 year old woman and was not impressed. I really wanted to like this film having heard such great things about but it was so boring. One cliché after another. Kid who wants to be a star? Check. Over bearing stage mom? Check. Mental breakdown? Check. Guy who comes to save the day? Check. Nothing original about this film. You've seen it many times before. All the attempts to Make us think fame is not as great as it seems fall super flat and the main character just comes off ungrateful. There's really only one incident in the whole film that makes you feel sorry for her. I don't know what else to say about this film. Forgettable. The one stand out is Minnie driver who i didn't know could play such a bitch. Well done! (Also backstory would have been nice. Was dad black? Was she adopted? That also really bugged me the whole film)
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10/10
Not my genre but still thoroughly enjoyed it
a_sad_cow13 November 2014
With the low IMDb rating, pop culture and romance, I was thoroughly expecting overused tropes, bad acting, and marginal writing. What I got was the complete opposite. I am not a fan of pop culture or romance movies but somehow these characters became very real for me.

In particular, I am impressed with the director's discipline. There are so many overused tropes that could easily have dominated the screen time. Instead, she hits her points and moves on.

The supporting cast was particularly impressive for their sheer believability. Hollywood too often takes the liberty "it's only a movie" or "it's Hollywood, we can totally do whatever". Instead, they stayed true.

This movie will go in my Blu-Ray collection when it finally comes out. The subtleties are impressive and worth revisiting. This is the second movie with a primarily romantic focus to achieve that honor. The first is True Romance.
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4/10
Congrats, every white people in this movie it's a villain
boboceaelena18 February 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The story is so and so but it's impossible not to notice that all the white people presented in this movie, all 3 of them, are villains. Congrats 👏
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10/10
Good screenplay & acting
jseynopsis14 September 2020
The story about falling in love with a superstar is probably a recycled material & cliche, but with great screenplay and great acting, this is one of its best. This movie was released in 2014, I watched it in 2020. Even with a 6 year gap, it still is a great movie to me.

And the bonus? Lots of great music in it! ;)
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