Honestly, even being a person of color, I didn’t know the story of Oscar Grant really until I saw Fruitvale Station, and the main reason I saw this movie was because of Melonie Diaz; and because there hasn’t been too many movies featuring people of color, especially black people, not done by Tyler Perry, and I wanted to put my money down to show that it isn’t just Tyler Perry who can solely have people of color dominate his cast and make profit. That aside, I didn’t know what to expect, but in the AMC in Lincoln Square, seemingly I wasn’t the only one.
In Fruitvale Station, we focus on Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan) and his pursuit to turn his life around. After all, he has a daughter and a potential future wife named Sophina (played by Melonie Diaz) to take care of and he seemingly, after a prison sentence or even a few, has decided that he can’t stay the way he was no more. Unfortunately, the path toward being more righteous is hard and though he has the support of his girl and mother Wanda (played by Octavia Spencer), having initiative and optimism isn’t really getting him where he wants to go.
Diving deeper, throughout the film we establish who Oscar is as a person. He is a young African-American male who has been with his high school sweetheart for years, maybe cheated on her once, but for the most part has been faithful. He seemingly is, or was, in the drug game and is trying to be the best man possible to raise his daughter since, seemingly, his dad is no where to be found. To say the least, Oscar is a character on the road to redemption with demons in his past. But, long time girlfriend Sophina is there for him, and in what seems to be rare in black cinema, we see a family extending from his mother, sister, uncles and grandma, all rooting for the boy who they can see is struggling, but at least trying to make something of himself. Unfortunately though, due to advice given with goodwill he is lead down a path with challenges his mortality.
To me, one of the things I liked about Fruitvale Station was because it showed the rarely seen black family, and yeah Oscar’s dad wasn’t present in the movie, but we saw his uncles, his grandmother and mother who all seemed to be the tightest nit family I’ve seen as a representation of Black folks in ages. Not only that, but it feels that it has become so rare to see a Black man not only spend time with his kid, but being actively in their life to the point where you almost can feel envious, if not a sense of pride, by seeing someone like Oscar on screen. But what really made the movie to me was the fact that within 90 minutes I felt so attached to a character who I not only found myself admiring in some ways, but also felt like I got to know him, laugh with him, and even be part of his life like he was sharing his own story.
But, there lies one issue: The movie spoils its ending within the first few minutes and then what we go through is a buildup to what happened in the film. However, with you already knowing what is ultimately going to happen, it sort of makes it hard at times to get too into the movie for you don’t want to get too close because with each moment of seeing Oscar with his family, and especially his daughter, you keep replaying one of the first scenes in the movie to remind yourself that this isn’t likely to last. Also, on a technical issue, this film is very grainy. Considering how companies spend millions to convert movies to 3D, I was surprised how pixelated this movie looked at times, especially during night scenes. Oh, and sometimes the camera is shaky and it can be a little disorienting, but I guess they wanted a almost documentary type style to the film so a steady cam may not have expressed what the director was going for.
But be warned! Movies like this, as beautiful as they are, seemingly are made for the times and to convey a message. With events like the Trayvon Martin’s trial going on, Fruitvale Station seems placed at just the right time to remind the world that events like that aren’t rare occurrences, much less just done by regular old civilian hands. Films like these are made to speak for those people and remind the world that they are someone, or were someone. Films like these remind people that even those who sordid past are used to tarnish their name to make the perpetrator seem less evil, they still were someone’s son, boyfriend/ husband, father and that just because they had a past, doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve a future. Expect tears with this film.