Superb Acting and Great Directing Put Fruitvale Station on the Right Track
Moving is the best way to describe Fruitvale Station. The movie from writer/director Ryan Coogler depicts the “true story” of Oscar Grant’s (played by the phenomenal Michael B. Jordan (not to be confused with six time NBA champion and Space Jam star Michael Jordan)) last day before he was tragically killed by a police officer at Fruitvale Station (hence the title of the film).
The film’s opening is very slow as we follow and experience the nuances of Oscar’s life. We see his relationship with drugs and drug dealing, and more importantly, his relationship with his daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal). This relationship organically plays out and allow us to relate with Oscar’s life and his desperation to support his daughter. This slow progression is a little tedious and boring, but it has an incredible pay off in the third act. More on the third act later.
Coogler goes out of his way to turn Oscar into a sympathetic character. In almost every scene, Oscar is portrayed as the victim or the “good guy.” Under less capable hands, this could come off as corny, but Coogler and Jordan approach it with such honesty and believability that it becomes real. Oscar truly feels like a multilayered character and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan’s name mentioned many times during award season.
Outside of Jordan’s portrayal as Oscar, every actor is strong in their different roles. Special mention goes out to Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, who plays a small supporting role as Oscar’s mother. Her character is a little underdeveloped, but shines in the third act, where she allows the audience to feel the anguish and suffering of a mother who is stricken with guilt (I will not spoil why she feels guilty).
Suffering is a good way to describe the third act of the movie. As Oscar and his gang enter Frutivale Station, the film intensifies. We hold our breath and cringe during every second, as the film becomes very emotional. I don’t want to spoil why it is so emotional, so I’ll give you a personal experience that helps demonstrate this fact. At the end of my screening, during the credits, a man in the audience became so emotionally compelled that he yelled out: “fuck the police” at the top of his lungs. While it killed the tension for me, which was palpable beforehand, it showed how moving this film was for people. I am not joking, the third act of this film is the definition of moving, saddening (if you want happy-go-lucky go see Smurfs 2), but totally worth the price of admission.
Overall, Fruitvale Station is anchored by Oscar-worthy acting and great directing, and at the end of the film, you’ll be just like Oscar’s mother and just need a hug.