A pertinence and necessity is clearly evident in this extended, but effective conversion of Angie Thomas’s young adult bestseller.
The Hate U Give is directed in often deft strokes by George Tillman, Jr. (Notorious, Soul Food) even if some of the characters lack much dimension in the collaboration with scribe Audrey Wells (Under The Tuscan Sun, Guinevere, The Truth About Cats and Dogs).
Still, it’s hard not to be swayed by the performance of Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Minds, The Hunger Games) as black adolescent Starr Carter dwelling in a poor neighborhood but belonging to a mainly white privileged prep school.
Being the lone observer to the death of her devoted swain Khalil (Algee Smith of Detroit) at the hands of a local white cop when reaching for a hairbrush leaves her in an equivocal position as classmates have their perceptions of the offense. Besides, her half-brother’s daddy (a menacing Anthony Mackie of films like The Hurt Locker, The Night Before and Ant-Man) who happens to be the neighborhood syndicate boss doesn’t want this sticky situation to come back to him. Will Starr come forward and testify or play it safe?
Tillman and his staff have a creative impulse to lighten the mood at times when not displaying a touch for cruel impulses and its aftermath. In a depiction of an uneasy balance between two worlds turned calamitous there is solid secondary work by Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby as Starr’s understanding parents, while Smith exudes noticeable personality. And, Common (Selma, Just Wright, as well as the current Smallfoot) is quite persuasive as Uncle Carlos. Yet, the major impetus in The Hate U Give is the mature, emancipating arc delivered by Stenberg who seizes upon a trenchant opportunity to follow in the footsteps of former co-stars like Jennifer Lawrence.