Rated: R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 12, 2013 Released by: The Weinstein Company
Fact-based tragic yarn occurring around the eponymous San Francisco transit locale is stoked with impassioned humanity. Its significance comes from a "celebration of life rather than a condemnation of death."
Fruitvale Station once just Fruitvale covers a short time in compressed fashion without canonizing its black subject, Oscar Grant, a young man who spent jail time in 2007 and trying to begin some New Year's resolutions for at the end of 2008 which happened to be.
This narrative which may get more do justice later in a documentary format chronicles the frenzy around Grant's sudden death with more than enough archival footage provided by personal electronic devices. Here there's an involuntary manslaughter by a cop mistaking his gun for a taser released after serving eleven months. It may raise more eyebrows during the trial of community watch Sanford, Fla. man George Zimmerman for the death of young black man Trayvon Martin.
Writer/director Ryan Coogler has drawn something meaningful and vital from actual events (even if some of what's portrayed didn't happen or in the same manner as films like Argo and Cinderella Man can attest to) when it comes to what led up to a brawl on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Witnesses recorded a burly law enforcer getting rough with passengers while oblivious to the instigator of a fateful brouhaha.
The importance here is learning of Grant's tumultuous state which can range from gentle to tough which make the latter-going much more urgent and resonant. His ongoing tardiness has led to supermarket employment dismissal, but looks to make a turnaround. His family life isn't that colorful but as Oscar, Michael B. Jordan (of Red Tails and the solid Chronicle) shades a viable complexity with charisma and good looks appearing in almost every scene.
Octavia Spencer (Oscar-winner for The Help) is Oscar's caring mother who fervently wishes for an upward turn of his moral compass, Melonie Diaz is Sophina his devoted girlfriend and Ariana Neal is his sweet young daughter Tatiana. They make those closest to Oscar relevant to the reasons to he can strive to make more of a difference in his milieu.
Before the senseless horror, the young man with nary any racial intolerance has touched others like a store proprietor who could let folks use his restroom after business hours or Katie (Ahna O'Reilly also of The Help) who gets assistance from his grandmother when put on the phone with her to prepare catfish and would end up on the BART to help offer evidence for the authorities. You even see the sense of where his spirit is heading through the hit-and-run attack of a stray mutt.
The triumph of Fruitvale Station lies in what a young, able Coogan provides for his relative newcomer in Jordan to deliver a naturalistic, poignant turn that obviously will be an acting steppingstone. It means a lot for Coogan to get distinctive intimate hand-held lensing from Rachel Morrison to make the impression of Grant's offing more of an emotional, personal experience rather than a manipulative, if racial and ethical diatribe.