Review: Fruitvale Station
Films that are based off of a true story, especially that of one so tragic, usually find a way to really hit home or completely miss all together. Most of the time they often feel very similar to one another as they try to convey the same message, but this one differs from that familiar convention. This story involves the likes of a twenty two year old man who was murdered on New Years Day of 2009. His name was Oscar Julius Grant. Writer and director Ryan Coogler wanted to create a film on the tragedy but he wanted to celebrate the man, as opposed to the tragedy. He focused on how he was a man who by circumstance would get questionable looks but he was a good man and a good father. Coogler tells a beautiful story about a man on the path to turning the corner for bigger and better things only to see his life cut short due to a simple mistake.
The plot of course follows Oscar Grant (Micheal B. Jordan) and covers the entire day leading up until his untimely death. He and his girlfriend, Sophina (Melanie Diaz), are preparing for the day and most importantly the New Years festivities coming that night as well as his mother's birthday. On top of that, Oscar tries to fight for his job back at the local grocery store, only to find out that there is no way he can get it back considering his checkered past and history of lateness. Knowing that he has to still find a way to provide for his girlfriend and daughter, he ponders going back to his old ways of selling drugs, but when he recounts his days in prison he gets rid of his stash. He explains this to his girlfriend who admires him for his honesty and his willingness to turn the corner to an honesty life.
After spending the day getting things in order for their night, they head to his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer), to celebrate her birthday before they spend the rest of their night ringing in the new year. Wanda begs of her son to take the train from Fruitvale rather then driving by car to avoid all the crazies and the traffic. He reluctantly agrees to his mother's demands. Oscar and his girlfriend meet up with their friends and begin to celebrate the holiday, but of course, things do not go according to plan. The night is going wonderful and Oscar even gets a potential job yet his past catches up with him in a violent manner.
Fruitvale Station is a true story and in that comes a heart wrenching film that makes us truly care for this man who meant an early end even when he was just turning the corner in life. Ryan Coogler does a fantastic job telling a gripping story in his directorial and writing debut. He shows that he is an adequate writer and director. The real star of the show is clearly Micheal B. Jordan as Oscar Grant. He does a fantastic job of making us care for this man and giving a layered performance filled with compassion but also a bit of aggressiveness. I read in one review someone compared him to a young Denzel Washington, I think that is a bit strong, but I understand where they are coming from in that comparison. The other actors didn't have too much to go on as this was clearly Jordan's show and the film predominantly starred him and him alone. All in all, it is a very well done film thanks to Coogler and Jordan's layered performance.