Fruitvale Station (2013) Review

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“Fruitvale Station” is the devastating true story of Oscar Grant, the young man shot to death by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Eve 2009, a few hours after his mother’s birthday.

Michael B Jordan, whom I recall from 2012’s “Chronicle”, gives an accurate, and thought-provoking performance of a young man trying to better his life, only to have it tragically cut short way too soon. I can easily see this performance being nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and for good reason – it’s one of the finest, most overlooked performances of the year. Octavia Spencer also brilliantly plays Oscar’s mother Wanda, in a heartbreaking performance. She really captures the emotions of a mother’s loss and longing for answers without being sappy or trite.

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The film was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who collected pieces of information from friends, family, and loved ones of Oscar to create a realistic, and balanced look at his life. And that’s what I commend the most about this film – it’s very balanced. It doesn’t stray away from his arrests and the bad things in his life, but it also doesn’t try to be another story about racism. It portrays him as the humble, though struggling person he seemed to be. It keeps true to human nature, and portrays it as the tragic event it was. Some details here and there were fabricated for dramatic depth, but mainly this movie keeps true to who Oscar was as a person and what his life was like leading up to his untimely demise. The movie is a look at his life up until the shooting, with of course the shooting being dramatized in the final scene. The very first scene of the film incorporates actual cell phone camera footage of his shooting, and after the final scene of the film is footage from an early 2013 civil protest that features his real-life daughter.

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In conclusion, “Fruitvale Station” is a tragic, but commendable drama about a mother’s coming-to-terms with an untimely loss, and a son’s struggle to better himself that features a fierce breakout performance from Jordan, and the rise of a new directing/writing talent in Ryan Coogler. The film is realistic and quite timely, and is  one of the finest films of 2013. Very worth seeing, although a bit too short.

My Rating: 9/10

Thanks for Reading!

Some good articles about the film and Oscar I recommend reading:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/07/12/fruitvale_station_true_story_fact_and_fiction_in_movie_about_bart_train.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BART_Police_shooting_of_Oscar_Grant

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21004-tragic-slaying-by-bay-area-police-remembered-five-years-later

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