The saying “Laugh to keep from crying” has been used for generations to explain how people get through what they get through but, as one character says, eventually you run out of punchlines. Something Blackbird displays for it brings the rare focus on non-white LGBT teens who struggle, become triumphant, but don’t necessarily make it to the finish line without some trauma.
Trigger Warning(s): Homophobia
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
Randy (Julian Walker) is a good Christian boy. He rarely curses, helps his mother Claire (Mo’Nique), who has been dealing with the disappearance of her daughter for 6 years, is in the church choir and is a very active member of his school. However, one thing plagues him: his sexuality. For with sex dreams, with men, leading to him having wet dreams, he finds himself confused. Though most people, especially Efrem (Gary LeRoi Gray) have a strong feeling the boy is gay.
Leading us to the heart of the story which deals with Randy discovering himself, mostly through interactions with Marshall (Kevin Allesee); Efrem and Crystal (Nikki Jane) having small stories dealing with their own issues, and Leslie (D. Woods) dealing with the laws of Mississippi which turn her joy into sorrow.
Generally, whenever I have to go to New York to see a movie, by the time I get home and start writing, I’m pretty much over the film, the luster is gone, and usually it gets marked TV Viewing. Blackbird is an exception. For truly, Patrik-Ian Polk and Rikkie Beadle-Blair have, in collaboration with the actors, created the type of film worth repeated viewing, accolades, and creating a potential classic beyond the LGBT community.
The reason I say this is because, undeniably, everyone plays their role in such a way that you almost wish that the movie would get expanded into a show, which seemingly happened with Noah’s Ark (one of Polk’s most famous productions). For, to begin with Mr. Walker, there is a sweetness to him, no pun intended, which makes his struggle and his “coming of age,” or him coming to terms with who he is, just so easy to connect with. Then when it comes to his friends Efrem and Crystal, you are given two characters you wish you could see more of and, in general, you are left wanting more from each and every last character. Of which definitely includes Mo’Nique for between the crazy side of her character she presents to the saner version we see in the latter half of the movie, we are reminded not only why she is considered a Queen of Comedy, but also why she has won various acting accolades on a universal scale.
Praise for the actors and the production crew aside, I would be remiss to not mention I also liked how religion was handled in this movie. For despite everyone being a Christian, talking about God and Jesus, and what have you, no one, but Claire to a point, seems indoctrinated. If anything, there is the rare balance of having a character letting you know faith matters to them, and yet not making their religious values seem like a heavy-handed message, or make it out to seem like the film is presenting an attack of parody.
Outside of my wishes dealing with getting to know more about the supporting characters, perhaps the only issue I can fathom is that sometimes it seemed the comic relief took away from the overall seriousness of the film. For if it isn’t Efrem’s smart mouth, it is moments with Randy which lighten the mood to the point that you are never allowed to fully experience the pain of what anyone is going through.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Thus far, this is perhaps the funniest film I’ve seen this year and while the jokes take away from the overall seriousness of the movie, it does remain touching. But what makes this Worth Seeing, and not another movie in the TV Viewing pile, is that it doesn’t feel like a Black person cast in a White movie, nor does it feel like it the praise should be focused on the lead being Black. For with not much cultural stuff going on, pretty much anyone could have played anybody. However, there is something undeniable about damn near everyone which transcends the almost mandatory praise you get out of some professional critics, and commenters, who seemed geared toward hyping something almost solely because the movie isn’t about a hetero white male.
And that, to me, is what separated this film from the many other films starring Black people, that deal with LGBT issues, and are part of the coming of age genre. For while it likely shares similar formulas, it is rare for the overall film to be this good. Which is why I’m probably going to watch this again, recommend it to others, and take note of Patrik-Ian Polk’s future work, among the other members of the cast.
Things To Note
Unlike a lot of films, this one does provide some sort of closure and it tells us everything which happens to the cast after the film is done.
Also, again unlike most films, while it has multiple storylines going on at the same time, it nonetheless gives you just enough to follow who is going through what and, again, makes almost every character interesting enough that you are left wanting more details.