Movie Review: Fruitvale Station
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Fruitvale Station
Director: Ryan Coogler
Screenwriter: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand
The Weinstein Company
Rated R | 85 Minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2013

Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit Station in Oakland, California in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.

Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) stars as Oscar, an unemployed 22-year-old struggling to provide for his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints).

When he wakes up on New Year’s Eve, Oscar resolves to be a better son to his mother (Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer), a better partner to Sophina, who he hasn’t been completely honest with lately, and being a better father to Tatiana, their four year-old daughter. After taking Tatiana to school and dropping Sophina off at work, Oscar goes to his former place of employment, a grocery store in Hayward, California, to ask for his job back.

At the grocery store he meets up with his friend and former co-worker Cato (Keenan Coogler) to confirm New Year’s plans. Oscar, Sophina, Cato, and their friends plan on taking the BART train to San Francisco to watch the fireworks – and while the day starts out well, with Oscar crossing paths with friends and family, he struggles with his past and realizes that change is not going to come easy.

A flashback sequence in San Quentin prison reveals why Oscar is desperately trying to change his ways. He’s serving time for dealing drugs – and when his mother comes to visit, she is so frustrated and disappointed with her son that she can’t bring herself to hug him. Oscar’s out-of-control behavior has cut him off from his mother, his daughter, and those closest to him. He’s got to make a better life for himself and his family – but his past won’t let him.

Michael B. Jordan is phenomenal in the lead role, presenting Oscar Grant as a real human being with flaws and failures. You come to know Oscar during the film’s 85-minute running time, and when he is shot and mortally wounded by BART police officers (played by Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray) at Fruitvale, your heart breaks for him and his family – you’re crying and shaking your head, trying to make sense of the senseless, and it’s just so devastating. Fruitvale Station is a devastating, powerful film that demands to be seen.

Coogler’s feature film debut is gripping, heartfelt, and beyond moving. It’s an important film – one that will no doubt garner acclaim and accolades for Michael B. Jordan’s fully-formed performance and Coogler’s adaptation of a tragic true story. Fruitvale Station might be this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, a Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner by a visionary new filmmaker with a breakout performance and a minuscule budget. Does that mean an Academy Award nomination is in Coogler and Jordan’s future? I certainly hope so, because Fruitvale Station deserves every bit of recognition it can get. Go see this movie.


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