If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Poster

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Jenkins' Adaptation of James Baldwin is Deeply Powerful
bastille-852-73154714 October 2018
Two years after sending shockwaves through the film world with "Moonlight," which went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Barry Jenkins is back with "If Beale Street Could Talk." Needless to say, the film is excellent and is everything one could hope a follow-up to "Moonlight" would be. The film follows a young African-American couple in Harlem before and during when the man is wrongfully accused of sexual assault. While such difficult subject matter could feel slightly tone-deaf to some in the era of #MeToo, viewers should rest assured that Jenkins handles the material with a delicate and incredibly thoughtful sense of sensitivity. Like "Moonlight," the film's aesthetic qualities feel almost lyrical in tone, which is a beautiful sight to behold. The score is also superb as well, managing to be both quietly rousing and emotionally stirring.

Jenkins' technique of characterizing the setting or settings where his films are set is put to great use here. New York City feels almost like a character in this film, as it adds a rich tapestry to the film's narrative. This sense is heightened further when paired with a meticulous sound design, where even simple and day-to-day sounds like a subway car rolling into the station enhance the viewing experience. The acting is strong and quietly powerful from beginning to end, and the amount of thoughtful character development that Jenkins deploys throughout the story's narrative is commendable. The same can be said to the film's frequent use of narration. In many other films, this could have come off as annoying, but the film uses this tactic to great ends here by primarily using it to enhance the audience's emotional connection to the characters. Such a connection further builds up the powerful nature of the film's narrative, which makes a powerful and deeply tragic statement on the nature of racism without ever resorting to feeling heavy-handed by the end. I will note that the film does take some time to get going and has a few minor redundancies in its beginning scenes. But otherwise, this film is superb and on par with "Moonlight" in quality. Baldwin's prose is not just honored in this film, but it is cherished. 9/10
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I wanted to love it but...
curiouslurker14 December 2018
The acting was great, especially Regina King. She deserves every award she is nominated for in this pic. I heard so much about this film at TIFF and I was so looking forward to seeing it, but I didn't get around to it until December. The direction and pacing were almost too deliberate, to the point of distraction, and at times the camera work left me feeling motion sick. What it comes down to, though, is the ending. It felt unfinished and I walked away from the film feeling like the story hadn't been told. Too bad, really, because it was starting to look like a beautiful, if tragic, film.
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elizabeth-logan124 November 2018
This movie was amazing! It was refreshing to see your true love story. I also love the way it told the story of a generation of lost men and shattered families at the hands of institutionalized racism. And how I generation of single mothers came to exist in America. Well written, well acted and beautifully shot.
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A timely plea with timeless musings along the way
jsph_calabrese13 September 2018
If Beale Street Could Talk is hands down one of the best movies of the year. Barry Jenkins again triumphs in truly showing, not simply telling, that blackness is beautiful and that black lives do matter.

Part of me understands the argument that this would have been best served as a theatrical production, as the dialogue feels as such at times. But then I come back to the fact that Jenkins is such an immersive director: intimate visual style, precise editing that enriches both the themes and intrigue of narrative, and his perfect use of music. The cinematic medium allows for the expressionistic strokes that elevates the story to such a powerful experience.

Final thought: I do not remember life before this Nicholas Britell score. I keep refreshing Spotify hoping for it to drop.
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luminouslogan14 December 2018
Racists came out in full force on IMDB and Metacritic to downvote this, best they could bump it down to was a 7/10. It's actually hard to imagine an educated person having any issues with this movie. It's a beautifully shot, well written, technically impressive, emotional and moving story that touches on racism, romance, parenthood, and the human condition. It's true to it's name, its the closest you'll ever get to being spoken to by a place. You don't need to be a liberal to enjoy this, you don't need any political affiliation. Watch this as an individual, you will find enlightenment. Best film of the year.
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Snail's paced, non-cinematic disappointment
lance2426 December 2018
Loved Moonlight and was expecting a lot from this film. The basic problem is simple: this should have been a play. It doesn't work as a movie despite strong acting because the plot is thin and Jenkins' decision to slow the pace to a crawl exacerbates the lack of plot. There wasn't an original idea in the movie and the heavy reliance on stereotypes made it preachy. Potential viewers should ask why it took 44 years for this James Baldwin novel to make it to the screen before watching.
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Maybe I expected too much.
mharah28 November 2018
This film is based on James Baldwin's novel of the same name. I read it at the time and was very moved. It told me so much I didn't know. But that was in 1974, and one has heard the same story over and over since then. Barry Jenkins is telling a period piece, a mood piece. It is brilliantly acted and gorgeously shot. The music is too loud, but maybe that is deliberately appropriate. The narrative moves very slowly, with the deceptive languor of the South. That might work if it were set in the South, but it's not; it's Harlem. It has the feel of 1974, and it certainly could be New York - or Philadelphia or Baltimore - or Chicago or Detroit (which was only beginning to disintegrate then). In short, it doesn't feel tethered. Memphis, it is not. The result is that, unlike Moonlight, which was very involving, this film is rather stereotypical. Again, that was new in 1974. But not now. Today, we see the same stories over and over on TV screens - some of which are sadly still all too true, and others which are probably ginned up and definitely exploitive. I kept looking at my watch and thinking, "will nothing ever happen?", and it didn't. In short, If Beale Street Could Talk does look impressive. (Jenkins' fans are already gushing. And I am one, but I'm not blown away.) Moonlight it is not.
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Expected so much more !!
bdwy_babe31 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Acting was great but that was about it for me.

Main negative thing was audio .... missed so much as some was low mumbling or the Tish narration which wasn't very clear or loud enough. The others I was with also said they missed a lot as well. Slow moving and a tad boring. Also ... which I am confused about is if victim took off and wasnt at trial or no evidence was taken DNA or examination etc ... how was he sentenced. What was with Regina King's character wanting to wear a wig when in Puerto Rico ? Was this just to add another 5 minutes to movie?
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1hr of dialogue stretched out over 2hrs that felt like 3hrs
peeedeee-942819 January 2019
I don't know how this movie is rating over 90% on RT. It was dull dull dull. Here's why: The director chose to make his movie as visually stylish as possible, with much of the movie filmed in portrait with bokeh backgrounds, very sluggish delivery of dialogue (the lead lady talked like she just woke from a nap), and overall just lack of substance. The film felt very artificial, it didn't feel real as well. The background music didn't help either, it sounded like it was somewhere between Taxi Driver and Film Noir. Didn't suit it at all. And then there was Tish's narration, it definitely didn't fit at all. It definitely sounded like it was ripped from the pages of the book, and not at all the words of a 19 year old girl. The trailers seem to sell this as a movie about a couple going through difficulty with the fiance being in wrongfully jailed. Well, that part of the movie just doesn't really work, because of the overall lack of focus of the film - is it about the couple, is it about justice, is it about single mothers? The whole setting up of, and keeping Fonny in jail, felt overly contrived, not realistic. The fight at the beginning of the film between the two sets of families is also forced. Let's just have a scene of sass talk, even though it was already hinted to the audience that there was already tension between the families. What did they expect? Sorry, but I think you should skip Beale Street if you're looking for a film with engaging characters, good pacing, and a good story arc. Not this disjointed, snail paced mess.
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beautiful love story
deepakkanwar12 January 2019
So beautiful, i am speechless. Slow paced showing every emotion.
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Barry Jenkins creates another beautiful film, yet fails to deliver its dramatic potential.
dom-lerose-812 January 2019
Filmmaker Barry Jenkins received both critical acclaim and numerous awards including Best Picture at the Academy Awards for his 2016 film Moonlight, an intimate and poetic exploration of one man's alienation and struggle in a society he feels drowned in. Jenkins' next film follows a completely different style, yet similar theme. Based on the 1974 novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk has its heart in the right place the entire time, overall achieving what it sets out to do, yet struggles to execute its mission to its best ability.

Set in Harlem during the 1970s, young black couple Tish and Alfonso (Fonny) struggle to deal with the various interferences to their love. Fonny is in prison due to wrongfully being accused of raping a woman, causing Tish to go about with her daily life without emotional support, while Fonny feels trapped in his cell, separated from his emotional support as well. The driving force still connecting the couple is their unborn baby that Tish carries. In addition to their separation, the couple deals with the daily struggle of racism that plagued the 1970s, a time in which the civil rights movement was still fresh and racial justice was still a struggle

Jenkins main goal as a storyteller is to stay true to Baldwin's words and focus on the love story he crafted. While at times the couple feels to perfect and a little too in love, they have a deeply pure connection for each other that most couples can only dream of having. The on-screen chemistry between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephen James) simply isn't there compared to other romantic films that follow a couple plagued with chaos. Perhaps this is due to Jenkins forcing their love on us, painting too pretty of a picture and excluding the necessary drama to hold them together. While Beale Street deals with a heavy subject matter, the drama and emotion is lacking. The film is too quiet and pretty, only two scenes truly grabbing you and giving you something to feel.

What makes If Beale Street Could Talk work is how its made. Barry Jenkins, being the visual artist he is as a filmmaker, crafts a truly gorgeous vision of Harlem in the 1970s and puts together a stunning film that will captivate the audience throughout. The cinematography captures the characters beautifully, expressing their emotions with detail and precision. The score generates a mood to the film, one that is both haunting and charming simultaneously. Jenkins uses close-up shots to have his audience truly study his characters, allowing us to become more invested in their journey from start to finish.

The performances in this film are all stellar, each actor giving it their absolute best to portray people and not just fictional characters. Regina King is particularly memorable as Tish's mother, who's motherly love and care for her daughter and her happiness drives her character into an emotional rollercoaster.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a strong film, one that generates emotional appeal, yet doesn't fully embrace its dramatic potential. This film won't move you or make you cry most likely, but it will give you an appreciation for Barry Jenkins' directorial vision and for the struggle of a couple who truly love each other. Tish and Fonny both go through gut-wrenching emotional stress that needed to be explored and expressed in a more intense and kinetic fashion instead of the calm, peaceful nature of the film, but from start to finish you'll recognize you're watching an emotional film from the eye of a master filmmaker.
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Trust Love All the Way
citimets15 December 2018
It's been two years since Barry Jenkins took the film industry by storm with his masterpiece, Moonlight. Jenkins is back at it again with his adaption of the acclaimed novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin. Like Moonlight, Jenkins provides a film with such strong characters, and he is able to make viewers feel so connected to them. The movie is narrated by Tish Rivers, a 19 yr. old girl, who is pregnant with her soon to be husband Fonny Hunt's baby. We find out through the narrations that Fonny was falsely accused of rape, and is in jail when Tish learns she is pregnant. Tish is determined to get Fonny out of jail by the time their baby is born. With the help of her family, specifically her mother, (played by a terrific Regina King) the Rivers are willing to do whatever it takes to prove Fonny innocent. Like Jenkins' previous work, the film deals with such beauty and heartbreak. The movie does move slowly at times, but it's terrific camera work and sensational score by composer Nicholas Britell are certain to keep you engaged all the way. All in all the film has strong performances led by Stephan James, KiKi Layne, and Regina King, with a stellar screenplay by Barry Jenkins. When the credits role you will certainly find yourself trusting love all the way.
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Very disappointing
Spring155 January 2019
First, I need to make it clear that I was no fan of 'Moonlight' but I was very interested in 'If Beale Street...' because of the topic. It was getting many nominations and rave reviews (just like Moonlight). I knew that the movie was about a black man accused of a crime he did not commit and that interested me. Racism is a major social problem, and it has produced some very good movies. So it was not unreasonable to expect a high quality film.

I was very disappointed that what could have been a very good movie that was based on probably a very good book (I have not read the book, but I may in the future) was ruined by a terrible screenplay, and poor editing. It is broken into pieces that don't fit, so there is no flow. It moves slower than snails. First 20-30 minutes were OK, but later it became boring and tiresome to watch due to the slow pace. I was very bored, and rather irritated by the lame attempts to be artistic. Scenes go on forever, as if the editor and the director were both asleep and forgot to cut.

The acting by all actors was good. Regina King is winning nominations and/or awards. I find that surprising. Nothing wrong with her acting, but the role idoes not offer much, except for two emotional scenes near the end, and she does well in them. When compared with her competition for Best Supporting Actress, I don't feel this is a strong enough role when compared with others, that is, not strong enough to win.

Overall, this could have been a very good movie but whatever approach they used for telling the story has not worked for me.
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Lead Actress gets a "10" but director did an aweful job.
VoyagerMN198611 January 2019
I am sorry but Barry Jenkins seems to have sleep walked through this mess. it is shocking considering this is the director of the near masterpiece "Moonlight." Not to mention that that Beale street is one of Baldwins better and more original works.

Despite the problems with directing and adaptation though, the lead actress' work is a tour de force. KiKi Layne is extremely talented and more than carries the film.
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The Movie We Need Right Now
julietkwan13 January 2019
Barry Jenkins crafted a second masterpiece with "If Beale Street Could Talk." His other movie, "Moonlight," which is one of the greatest movies of the 21st century, is another type of movie about black power that we need right now. See, both "Moonlight" and "If Beale Street Could Talk" feature nearly an all-black cast (Moonlight is entirely) and they subtly emphasize and make a statement about appreciation of minorities and people who are not white. Both movies are beautiful, and this one features the theme of always believing in love, while Moonlight is about finding yourself. Both masterpieces, I kinda made this an homage to Barry Jenkins.
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If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
rockman18215 December 2018
I have to say honestly that this was one of my most hyped films of 2018. The trailer for the film had such a beautiful score and wonderful imagery, you just knew that you would be in for something special. Moonlight is a very good film, although I wasn't as crazy about it as most people were. I am pleased with If Beale Street Could Talk, it may not be as high regarded as Moonlight was two years ago but there's no denying that Barry Jenkins has once again brought forth a beauty of a work.

The film is about a young Black woman who finds out she is expecting a child. The main issue is that her lover has been imprisoned for a crime that he most likely did not commit. She (played by a wonderful KiKi Layne) must deal with telling her family and his as well as preparing for motherhood without the touch or presence of her mother. The film also explores the Black community in New York and the troubles faced, which still resonate today. The film also stars Stephan James, Colman Domingo, and a very excellent Regina King.

As with Moonlight, the film has such a wonderful score and absolutely beautiful imagery. The film employs the same personal profile shots of its characters with faces that tell an expressive story. Same with the slow panning between characters and profound dialogue. The film feels like a work of art, and Jenkins and his crew have perfected their storytelling as a form of art. The performances all around are great but I have to single out Regina King for having the best role of her career. She should surely be getting an academy nod for Best Supporting Actress.

I liked this film better than Moonlight and just felt like it met its expectations. It tells a very important story with problems that are still faced today, much like with Moonlight. To me, this just felt like an experience from beginning to end. Barry Jenkins is quickly showing himself off as a storytelling extraordinaire through his very artistic portrayal of his characters, story, and images. Go and see this film.

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Talented Oscar-winning director's adaptation of James Baldwin's 1974 novel is more agitprop than art
Turfseer9 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Fresh off his big Oscar-winning success with Moonlight, director Barry Jenkins is back with some more art house fare-this time based on James Baldwin's 1974 novel of the same name. Jenkins is pretty faithful to the novel but Baldwin's flowery prose doesn't always translate that well to the big screen.

Part of the problem is Baldwin's 19 year old protagonist Tish, whose narration is way too omniscient for a teenager. It becomes pretty obvious that it's really Baldwin's voice we're listening to but on the big screen her voice seems out of place.

Worse yet is Jenkins' reverential attitude toward both Tish and her 22 year old boyfriend Fonny, whom she's attempting to extricate from the prison system, after he's been falsely accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman. Jenkins puts Tish and Fonny on complementary pedestals where both actors Kiki Layne and Stephan James end up having little to do.

Fonny in particular is a poorly developed character as we find out so little about him-all we know is that he's an aspiring sculptor who feels so underappreciated by his boss (a furniture manufacturer), that he steals the tools at the workplace so he can set up his own studio and impress the world with his wood-working masterpieces.

Jenkins keeps reminding us just how wonderful this couple is and presents their love-making scenes like a beautiful Hallmark Greeting card. There is a reason of course why Jenkins refuses to present a more realistic "warts and all" portrait of his modern-day Romeo and Juliet-and that of course is the more they appear as saints, the uglier those who are attempting to destroy them (i.e. a racist society), will appear.

Baldwin makes it clear that his is a pessimistic vision of race relations in America especially when he writes in "If Beale Street Could Talk," "The kids had been told that they weren't worth sh** and everything they saw around them proved it." Jenkins takes this sentiment and amplifies it: not only in elevating his protagonists to virtual sainthood but inserting historical still photos (e.g. southern chain gangs) linking the excesses of the past to the present. The main antagonist, the racist cop who frames Fonny, is also a bit too reminiscent of the kind that shows up in some of Spike Lee's polemical spectacles.

In Jenkins' world, the deck is stacked against African-Americans: not only is Fonny caught in the spider's web where a corrupt district attorney's office has rigged things so that his trial is delayed (meaning more attorney's fees for the family), but both Tish and Fonny's fathers must resort to grand larceny down in the garment district to pay for the anticipated added attorney expenses. Fonny's friend, Daniel, who can provide his only alibi, is unable to do so, having been newly arrested, with a prior conviction, based solely on trumped-up charges.

Now of course there is a long history in this country of people (particularly African-Americans) of being falsely accused in the justice system (and believe it or not, other ethnic groups and even whites, being framed by corrupt cops). But in watching "Beale Street," one might come away believing that in most cases members of minority groups are incarcerated merely due to being victims of racism. If this truly was the case, just about any incarcerated individual could use the past claim of racism to excuse their conduct and be released. It's understandable how incidents (such as the one depicted here) are assumed to happen more than they do-in reality, most criminals are incarcerated due to their own nefarious deeds.

While his supporting players are certainly more interesting than his principals, Jenkins still exaggerates Baldwin's descriptions and turns Fonny's mother and sisters into shrill martinets-stereotyped religious zealots who are roundly condemned by the other side of the family. Only Regina King as Sharon, Tish's mother, has the best part in the film as the affirmative family crusader--in a futile quest to change the mind of her son's accuser.

One wonders if Jenkins really believes that he can trust the audience he is beholden to-the white establishment that buys the tickets and gives out the awards. Despite his talents (including his great knowledge of cinematography and ability to extract fine performances from his actors), there is something very insecure about a person who feels he must proselytize (as well as perhaps intimidate) in order to cultivate approbation.

One wishes Jenkins' writing could rise to the level of say noted African-American Pulitzer Prize winning playwright/screenwriter August Wilson. In Wilson's masterful drama Fences, his protagonist is done in by his own hubris, despite facing years of racism in his personal and professional life. Jenkins' (and Baldwin's) Fonny has no such fatal flaw.

In the end, Jenkins' current captive audience of those who crave melodrama over tragedy will eventually begin leaving in droves-when it's finally discovered the emperor has no clothes!
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Real People
elisabethbollman9 January 2019
This is beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted. There is so much nuance in this portrayal of urban black cultures in the early 60's in America. It is deep, glorious, and harrowing. Made me truly ashamed to be white. Discriminated against on the basis of color? We humans are mad.
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I don't mean to sound like this but..
swpoet8 January 2019
.. this movie was downright BORING. If I hadn't paid $10 to see it on the big screen, I would have turned it off halfway through and never looked back.
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It survived and conquered.
LordofArt22 October 2018
I thought there were some superfluous moments at the beginning...but it scaled through. Thank you Barry Jenkins. Beale Street did talk, yes it did.
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caneralper21 December 2018
After Moonlight expected him to move forward. Long shots of unnecessary dialongs, a lot "I love you babe, i love you more" romance, needles flashbacks. The only good thing was Regina King.
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Kinda boring...might as well read the book instead..
justin-fencsak6 January 2019
After seeing all the trailers and tv spots for this movie i gave in and watched the movie with my friend and we agreed that the movie was boring and had no conclusion. It might win for best cinematography and other merits, but won't win best picture at the oscars and golden globes.
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Sound score is amazing for an average movie.
karmabreaker8 January 2019
Great acting regardless of the fact the main male lead, mumbles half his lines. Good cinematography even though, scenes are badly paced and some seem to go on forever without any clear reason. A few obvious plot holes, completed with a rushed soulless ending, makes for an average night at the show. Music is terrific if not a bit repetitive.
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harvey-abouelata20 January 2019
I want to love this film and everything about it except, just about every scene is three times longer than it needs to be.
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Soooooo slow
jmc476914 January 2019
I really wanted to like this tragic movie about the plight of an African American family in the 1960s . Such a great message. Excellent acting. Beautiful cinematography. But oh wow, it was soooooo slow. You could've easily cut 30 minutes out of this movie, and it would have been so much better. The other thing that ruined it for me was the pretentious violin music. This was one of the most intrusive soundtracks that I've ever heard. The music was almost nonstop. The director couldn't just let each scene stand on its own merit. He had to amp it up even more with overbearing violins.
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