Film Review – Fruitvale Station (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%
Grand Jury Prize Winner for Drama at Sundance Film Festival

Directed By – Ryan Coogler
Starring – Micheal B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, and Octavia Spencer

The purportedly true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

*Spoilers ahead although they really shouldn’t be considered spoilers. I talk about what should be common knowledege of what transpired on the day of the film*

There has been a lot of debate over the film that tells the story of how Oscar Grant died on New Years Day in 2009. The events that occurred that led to the police confrontation, the events after, and the life lived by Grant before he was killed have all been discussed. To me, watching this film didn’t bring up any of those debates. The film showed the day of a human being living the last day of his life. I had known his past history and the film did a good job portraying the fact that Oscar was not a perfect person. The drugs in his system when he died and the fact that he was on parole was not expressed but that really didn’t matter to me. I don’t need to hear about the negative things about a person when the only real issue is that he was unfairly taken from this world. It’s completely unfair to judge a person who isn’t around to defend themselves. It’s ignorant to judge somebody on their past. Logic tells me that Oscar would have never turned his life around if he had not been killed, but who knows what could of happened if he had lived. I just wanted to say that those debates had nothing to do with my reaction to the film and honestly it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The film chronicles Oscar’s last day as well as some flashbacks from his past that help give the viewer an idea of what Oscar was like. A lot of people claim that the film was too sympathetic to Oscar but what I saw was character. Oscar’s character was all you needed to see to have the tragedy of what happened it you. As I watched Oscar play with his daughter and have dinner with his mother I became more and more anxious knowing what was going to happen by the end of the film. Michael B. Jordan joins a long list of amazing acting work we got to witness this year and is a sign to come that he is a talent to watch. His portrayal of Oscar was so heartbreaking considering how much life was beaming from his eyes knowing full well that it was only going to end. The connections he had with his family and friends were connections that hopefully everybody has in their lives. It’s a film about what could possibly happen during an ordinary day in our lives. It’s about making the best out of your situation even if it’s shitty and wrong. Jordan played a man with love in his life even if his life wasn’t exactly where he wanted it to be. Past mistakes shouldn’t define a person if they still have so much time to make things better.

Octavia Spencer plays Oscar’s mother Wanda and although she’s only in the film a short time, she makes her presence known in a huge way. Her performance was heartbreaking. Ryan Coogler (this is his debut as a director by the way) portrayed Oscar and his family with such realism and emotion that it was very hard as I said to watch the film knowing what was going to happen. I wanted to scream at the screen that he shouldn’t take the train. The world that Coogler painted was incredibly warm and loving even though it was set in a place of poverty and misfortune. I hope to see more of his work in the future.

Overall I was pretty floored by the film and had a very big emotion response to it which has only happened a few times this year. I didn’t see it as a racial statement even though it has every right to be one. I saw it as glimpse into an imperfect person who was taken from this world before he had a chance to turn his life around, but even so, he still touched and gave love to a lot of people. It’s a sad powerful film that should be seen.