The film Fruitvale Station is a beautiful heart-wrenching, and true story of the endeavors of Oscar Grant on the last day of 2008, last day of his life. Starring Michael B. Jordan as Oscar, Viewers see the potential of the up-and-coming actor Michael B. Jordan realized through his stunning performance. Already a standout in smaller roles in The Wire and Friday Night Lights, Jordan owns this role, a peculiar character that is volatile and troubled, but possesses redeeming qualities that supersede his shortcomings. His charm, love for his family, and desire to better himself make it impossible for viewers not to fall in love with his character. The strong cast include Also Academy-Award winning Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s resilient, loving mother and Melonie Diaz as his loyal girlfriend.
The indie, written and directed by Ryan Coogler is his first feature film. The Oakland native captures the story of Oscar Grant and the social undertones in such a captivating and authentic fashion that that this debut has propelled his career, which now includes the successful film Creed.
The film does an extraordinary job depicting a distressed, African-American male in his earlier twenties, a man who is trying to find a way to support his family and avoid trouble. The protagonist’s appealing qualities are juxtaposed with his capriciousness and anger creating a fascinating character that simply intrigues the audience and manages the tough balancing act of eliciting undeniable admiration, despite his flaws. The supporting characters reinforce Oscar’s complex nature through interactions that reveal the good along with the bad, and his relationship with his daughter is heartwarming because of the tenderness he displays with the little girl. The film finds its niches with its characters, who are delightful, genuine, and accurately represent a particular group of people under-represented in commercial media.
With regard to structural tension and conflict in the story, the film has an impressive way of developing a true story filled with tragedy – we already know the outcome from news reports – and building it into a narrative imbued with romance and hope. Even viewers who are not aware of the disheartening events to come sees the clues built into the film. For example, the lost dog Oscar finds at the gas station, is a foreshadowing parallel to the young man’s own fate who. Also, the presence of police lurking around the area coalesced with Oscar receiving suggestions on in the night of either staying at home or whether to take the train or a car creates an omniscient suspense the grips the audience.
In addition to the structural tension built into the plot, the film presents an interesting series of thematic conflicts such as man vs. self and man vs. society. Oscar battles day-to-day to avoid reverting back to his criminal ways in order to be a better role model and provider for his family. This provides social commentary on injustices inexperienced by African-American in relation to law enforcement. Fruitvale Station, the name of the film comes from the location where Oscar Grant was killed, recounts only one of many similar cases in recent years. The idea of “police brutality” and racial profiling isn’t the overarching focal point of the film, however. The police/law enforcement are not demonized in the film even though officers were responsible for Oscar Grant’s unlawful death, with minimal repercussions. Coogler simply commemorates a young man’s life, while also reminding the viewers the injustice that is associated with his death; if I take issue with some aspect of the film, it is that Coogler does not put much emphasis on the unfairness of Grant’s death and the lack of serious consequences faced by those involved.
Viewing this film, which portrays Oscar Grant as a martyr for his blackness, the first time is such a deeply emotional experience that it may be difficult to consider all of the cinematic elements carefully. Giving it a second look, enables the viewers to appreciate the clever way the cinematography captures realistic aesthetics and how editing pulls it all together. I do acknowledge a certain subjective bias that comes with this subject matter, being African-American. But, while the film may resonate differently for me based on my personal experience, it is a powerful and meaningful film that should be seen by a wide audience. All people should be concern about achieve social justice and remembering the life of this young man who died before he had much of a chance to live. Amanda May Meyncke, a critic from MTV News, affirms my praise, giving the film an outstanding review.
(Oscar Grant and his daughter)
- William Robinson