Friday, January 18, 2019

Movie Review: "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018)

If Beale Street Could Tak 2018 movie poster
Image Source
Director: Barry Jenkins
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

An African American artist is arrested and falsely accused of rape. Meanwhile, his pregnant fiance and her family do all they can to try and prove his innocence.

If Beale Street Could Talk 2018 movie
"We got all the time in the world. Hold on to me." (Image Source)
We wish someone would look at us the way anybody looks at someone else in a Barry Jenkins film. "If Beale Street Could Talk" is written and directed by Barry Jenkins, who is best known as the writer/director of the Best Picture Oscar-winning film "Moonlight." The story is based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, the prolific African American writer who was the subject of the compelling, heart-wrenching 2016 documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." This film tells the story of a young couple living in New York. Alonzo 'Fonny' Hunt (Stephan James) and Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) are lifelong friends who eventually became lovers. Fonny is an aspiring artist, and Tish works at the perfume counter at a department store. The two are about to get married when Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn't commit and is identified as a rapist by the alleged victim of the assault. Just after Fonny's arrest, Tish learns she is pregnant, and now, she, her family, and Fonny's dad Frank (Michael Beach) must do anything and everything they can to earn money for proper legal defense and to prove his innocence.
If Beale Street Could Talk 2018 movie
"If you give people hate, you get hate back to you." (Image Source)
A black man being arrested for crimes he didn't commit is a tragically all too common narrative in America. "If Beale Street Could Talk" explores that problem firsthand and shows how it is an uphill battle in which an accusation may as well be a conviction. Barry Jenkins has done a marvelous job adapting James Baldwin's novel to the big screen. It delivers a powerful message that needs to be heard, one about the imbalance of power in America's justice system that disproportionately impacts black men, especially. There is also something to be said about its other message, that the power of love, and the unbreakable bond between two people, can get them through even the darkest of times. The film boasts a sensationally evocative score by Nicholas Britell, and it also has some beautiful visuals aided by frequent Barry Jenkins collaborator James Laxton. BigJ thinks there is an overabundance of lingering shots of the leads looking longingly into the camera, which he felt were a bit much. I disagree on this point. I just loved how the camerawork and cinematography make the audience feel the love and longing and lust and passion and the trauma and heart between Tish and Fonny because of this immersive, close camerawork and cinematography that feel like characters in the story themselves. Jenkins takes his time to tell their love story, the ups and downs of their lives and lets the tale naturally unfold, giving the audience a snapshot in time. The costumes, the music, the settings, it's as if we had been transported to the 1970s with Fonny and Tish.

There are some fantastic performances from those involved, including Kiki Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King, who plays Tish's mom. King has a couple of the most impactful scenes in the film. One, in particular, comes when Tish reveals her pregnancy to Fonny's Christian fundamentalist mother. This scene ran us through a gamut of emotions as we sat in the theater with our jaws dropped at the volatile, depressing, vicious, unnecessary nature of the exchange. King is rightfully getting the lion's share of the spotlight where the acting is concerned, but we think Layne and James give two emotionally-charged performances in their own right.
If Beale Street Could Talk 2018 movie
"We were a part of each other." (Image Source)
"If Beale Street Could Talk" is an emotional, excellently executed film with brilliant performances, a terrific score, and gorgeous cinematography. BigJ was not quite as affected by this project as I was, but we both agree it is 110% worth watching.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.9/10
RT Rating: ~95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

No comments:

Post a Comment