CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Fruitvale Station.
Fruitvale Station is now playing in many theaters in Hampton Roads.
This is based on a true story… And in case you don’t know the story of Oscar Grant and what happened at Fruitvale Station, here it is.
A group of friends are coming home to the Oakland area on the transit train from celebrating New Years in San Francisco when a fight breaks out and the train stops at the Fruitvale Station. Eventually 22-year-old Oscar Grant is held face down on the platform and shot in the back by a transit cop at close range. He died seven hours later and the shooting sparked outrage.
The entire incident was recorded by numerous cell phone video cameras that have now had millions and millions of views on YouTube.
But the film about what happened at Fruitvale Station is less about the shooting, riots, and outrage over the verdict and more of an attempt to tell you the story of Oscar — to give him a voice in the craziness, to help us see that for all of his faults, he was loved a great deal, he tried to do the right thing, and he loved his family– especially his daughter.
The film gives us Michael B Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) as Oscar for the 24 hours leading up to the shooting. We see him help people at the store where he’d lost his job, promise to help his sister with rent, love his girlfriend, adore his daughter and pull out all the stops for his mother’s birthday.
Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) plays Oscar’s mother and it’s his mom’s birthday that prompts a flashback. Oscar served some time in jail, and his mother had to practice some tough love during one visit.
Fruitvale Station is the feature film writing and directorial debut for newcomer Ryan Coogler. And his first time out of the gate, he scores Jury and Audience awards at Sundance for Fruitvale Station.
Kudos to Coogler who decided the film needed to show you the story of who Oscar Grant was… In all the faults, efforts, caring, challenges, history and love he had in his life. Coogler knew it would be the shooting Grant would be remembered for, but the love he had for his family and they for him is really his legacy. He wanted to show that.
Because cell phone video is what defined the shooting at Fruitvale, Coogler employs it in the film from beginning to end. And it really adds to the tone and effect. The facts of the shooting are right there on video, yet the jury saw it differently. He shows us both versions.
Coogler starts the film with the actual cell phone video of the shooting, then rewinds to show us what lead up to it — including the film version of the shooting — shot on the actual Fruitvale Station platform as the jury saw it. The film is important and relevant to today and speaks volumes without trying to.
Some scenes building to the shooting are cliched, but its the acting of them that keeps the film on track. Michael B Jordan as Oscar Grant is understated and inviting to the viewer. He makes us care about him and understand him, so much so that by the time we get to the shooting scene we, the audience, feel like our brother was just shot. It was wrenching.
And speaking of wrenching…. Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother is acting perfection in motion. You see her go through it, trying to do the right things by her kids while so many challenges around them are fighting to take them from her. She is starting to win the game when the shooting happens, and she stays positive, turning those around her away from anger to focus on Oscar.
Fruitvale Station is more than a statement on race relations in America, (which I don’t think it really set out to be, but is in some ways), it’s everything a beautifully made film does for me… It makes me see myself in the characters, makes me — a 40-something white woman — relate to, understand and sympathize with a 22-year-old black man who lived life seemingly a world away from mine but, in some ways, still are so alike.
Board this train… See this film.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE COOKIES
Rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use.