Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Movie Review: "The Hate U Give" (2018)

Director: George Tillman Jr.
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes

The Garden Heights community must deal with the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting that left an unarmed African American teenager dead and the girl he was with debating whether or not to speak out about what she witnessed or stay silent.

The Hate U Give 2018 movie still Amandla Stenberg Algee Smith
"I need to speak for him." (Image Source)
"The Hate U Give" is a movie designed to be important. It was made to tackle a serious, extremely relevant social issue. Making a movie that hopes to do more than preach to the choir often requires some subtlety and nuance. Unfortunately, that's not always the case here. This film is directed by George Tillman Jr., who is known for directing other projects like "Notorious," "Soul Food," and "Faster." The screenplay is written by Audrey Wells, who wrote such movies as "George of the Jungle," "Shall We Dance," and "A Dog's Purpose," and the screenplay is adapted from a 2017 novel by Angie Thomas. This story centers on a teenage girl named Starr (Amandla Stenberg), who lives in a low-income area populated with crime, drugs, and gang violence. Starr attends a private college prep. school in a wealthier city. While attending a party in her neighborhood, she runs into her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith). When gunshots go off at the party, everyone runs, and Khalil offers to give Starr a ride home. On the way home, they are pulled over for "failure to signal." Khalil gets a little bit frustrated with the police officer and is asked to step out of the car. When he reaches back into his car window for a hairbrush, the officer panics and shoots him, leaving Starr as a witness to the chaos. Now, Starr is torn between speaking up about her truth to get justice for Khalil or staying quiet due to the danger she may face because of Khalil's connections to a local gang leader and drug lord named King (Anthony Mackie).
The Hate U Give 2018 movie still Amandla Stenberg Regina Hall Russell Hornsby Common
"Where you live does not define who you are." (Image Source)
"The Hate U Give Little Infants, Fucks Everyone" is the quote from Tupac Shakur that provides the basis for "The Hate U Give." It seems self-explanatory, but it holds a lot more weight than one might imagine. This is a movie with a message, an urgent, imperative message for this exact time and place in American history, and it can be more interested in and concerned with delivering that message than anything else. Unfortunately, it is delivered in such a way that we fear it won't change anybody's minds on the social matter it is addressing. Though the film has many great points to make, the subject matter is explored at a surface level most of the time. Our biggest problem with this film is its writing. Sometimes, these powerful ideas are conveyed swiftly and efficiently, and other times, it either feels a little unnatural and overly dramatic, or gets dropped by the wayside before actually sinking its teeth into the meat and potatoes of the information it wants to convey. Some of the characters are well developed, others are too thin and needed to be explored more. However, where "The Hate U Give" truly shines is in its acting. We have always loved Amandla Stenberg's work, and she offers a tremendous performance as Starr. Mark our words, we will be seeing her name come up in Academy Awards conversation within the next few years, she's just that good. As great as she is, we believe Russell Hornsby gives the strongest performance as Starr's father Maverick, a man who has seen many battles in his life. Maverick has been "in the life," and he has been out of it. As such, he offers Starr (and the audience, as it were) many sage inspirational monologues about what it's really like to be black in America.
The Hate U Give 2018 movie still Amandla Stenberg
"Don't ever let nobody make you stay quiet." (Image Source)
We wish we had liked "The Hate U Give" more because we so strongly agree with its message. In that aspect, it is preaching to the choir for us, but it is a choral concert we will attend over and over and over again until its message no longer needs to be conveyed to the public, until we no longer need to think and write about it because everything is just equal. Is this a fantasy? Maybe, but it's one we hope we see achieved in our lifetime. Movies like "The Hate U Give" are a start to a very critical and necessary conversation our nation needs to have. If we don't, well, it may already be too late. Despite its topical information, there are a couple of mixed messages in this particular story that are handled in ways that could have used some minor tweaks. We have heard some say that the book is better and more in-depth so we will be reading that soon.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.2/10
RT Rating: ~96%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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