Wednesday, February 3, 2021

#28DaysofBlack Review: "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK"

[One of the emerging film talents of the last decade is writer-director Barry Jenkins.  His incredible adaptation of James Baldwin's 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, proves that Moonlight, which won the “Best Picture” Oscar, was and is not a fluke.]

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 of 2021 (No. 1744) by Leroy Douresseaux

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Running time:  119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR:  Barry Jenkins
WRITER:  Barry Jenkins (based on the novel by James Baldwin)
PRODUCERS:  Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner, Sara Murphy, and Adele Romanski
EDITORS:  Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders
COMPOSER:  Nicholas Britell
Academy Award winner


Starring:  KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Ethan Barrett, Melanni Mines, Ebony Obsidian, Dominique Thorne, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Diego Luna, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, and Kaden Byrd

If Beale Street Could Talk is a 2018 American drama and romance film written and directed by Barry Jenkins.  The film is based on James Baldwin's 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.  The film follows the efforts of a young woman and her family as they try to prove the innocence of her lover after he is charged with a serious crime.

If Beale Street Could Talk introduces “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James).  They have been friends their entire lives, and begin a romantic relationship when Tish is 19 and Fonny is 22.  They struggle to find a place to live because it is the early 1970s, and most New York City landlords refuse to rent apartments to black people.  Fonny, a young artist and sculptor, is later arrested and accused of raping a woman in an unlikely scenario.

It is afterwards that Tish announces to her parents, Sharon (Regina King) and Joseph Rivers (Colman Domingo), and to her sister, Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), that she is pregnant.  Not everyone in Fonny's family, however, is happy about the impending birth of a grandchild.  As the months drag on, Tish, Sharon, and the rest of the family realize that they will have to give an all-out effort in order to help Fonny's lawyer, Hayward (Finn Wittrock), free Fonny from a criminal justice system that will do anything to keep him behind bars.

I love the beautiful cinematography in If Beale Street Could Talk.  I think it does so much to sell the exquisite love story at the heart of this film, and If Beale Street Could Talk is a romantic movie.  It imagines love in the ruins of a society shackled by white racism and white supremacy.  In that way, director Barry Jenkins' film can literally talk to his audience about racism and oppression of black people while telling a poetic and expressionistic story of two young black people in love.

If Beale Street Could Talk is shaped by a number of excellent performances, with Regina King's Sharon Rivers as the port-in-the-storm for the tossed and turned ships in her immediate family and circle.  King is the sun queen, and in her warmth, KiKi Layne and Stephan James can grow and build their characters and their characters' love story into something that is so strong that it overcomes everything working against it.

In his Oscar-winning Moonlight, Jenkins told the story of gay boy growing into a man by taking the ordinary coming-of-age story and making it something extraordinary for the ages.  In If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins' racial drama is told as a timeless love story.  Perhaps, making a film set in the 1970s be timeless is most important, as the racism and oppression of then are not only symptoms of that time, but rather are also the breaths that this nation takes.

In the end, I am amazed by Barry Jenkins.  His film is about love and shows us love and is love.  Love, love, love:  I am overwhelmed.  If Beale Street Could Talk holds to the truths that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke on love (love's transforming powers).  Normally, I would feel anger after seeing a film like this, but in the end, Jenkins' fascinating aesthetic of love and Black Consciousness wins out.  This is why I am still trying to figure out which is the best film of 2018 – BlacKkKlansman or If Beale Street Could Talk?

10 out of 10

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

2019 Academy Awards, USA”  1 win for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: (Regina King); 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures-Original Score” (Nicholas Britell) and “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Barry Jenkins)

2019 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Regina King); 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Barry Jenkins)

BAFTA Awards:  2 nominations: “Best Screenplay-Adapted” (Barry Jenkins) and “Original Music” (Nicholas Britell)

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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