Film review: FRUITVALE STATION


Written and Directed by Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer. Ariane Neal

On New Year’s Eve 2009, a group of over-anxious BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cops cornered a group of African-American revelers who had engaged in a minor skirmish on a subway train. One of the group was shot by a young cop who supposedly mistook his real gun for his taser. This is shown in the first few minutes of the film, caught as so many public events seem to be today on numerous cellphones.

FRUITVALE STATION looks at how Oscar Grant spent the hours leading up to his murder. Grant is played by the miraculous Michael B. Jordan, who brings incredible nuance and heart to the role. The reason we watch the film with mounting dread is because ,over the course of it, we have come to root for him. Even love him. Before our very eyes, he has grown up, taking his first steps toward being the man his mother (Spencer) and wife (Diaz) hope he will become. He is a loving son, father ,and lover to the three women in his life. We watch as he sheds his boyish bad temper, his disregard for timeliness on the job, his willingness to use and dispense drugs.

And it is all for nothing as he is gunned down for the flimsiest of reasons. Young black men die at an alarming rate in this country and this is the story of one of those deaths. Director Ryan Coogler does a magnificent job of capturing the ordinary life of a man in an extraordinary way. Highly recommended. This film was voted the Audience Favorite at the Sundance and Traverse City Film Festivals. It is not hard to understand why.

Patti Abbott