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Fruitvale Station is a character study of Oscar Grant in the last few hours of his life during his birthday on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2008). If you’re a fan of The Wire, then Michael B. Jordan stole your heart as Wallace. If you’ve never heard of The Wire, then 1) shame on you for your bad taste in TV, and 2) prepare to have your heart stolen by Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station.

Despite what some critics may say about Fruitvale Station, this is not an overly positive depiction of Oscar Grant. The writer/director Ryan Coogler shows the audience with an image of a flawed character—warts and all. Oscar isn’t a bad man, but he’s made some bad decisions in the name of self-preservation.

I still can’t determine if Fruitvale Station benefitted from the residual public focus after the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case as this movie was released around the time of the verdict in July 2013. Unfortunately, I think this put Fruitvale Station in an unfair position as the spotlight seemingly led some people to be overly critical and expect a painstakingly accurate portrayal of the whole picture.

Fruitvale Station did not need to present every bad thing in Oscar Grant’s history. If this were a documentary, then I’d be more tolerable to those issues. Fruitvale Station is based on real events, which gives Coogler creative license to artistically present this story with his own frame.

No matter how you slice it, Oscar Grant is still a sympathetic character because he gets caught up in the events that unfold on that fateful, tragic night. If you’re not familiar with real life story of Oscar Grant, then you’ll enjoy Fruitvale Station even more, but the film opens with real footage from that night.

It is heart-breaking and heart-wrenching.

Personally, I think this imagery would have been a better bookend to the film rather than the introduction to Fruitvale Station. Regardless of its placement, this scene is effective and impactful. Used as the set-up in the introduction, this footage prepares the audience for an emotionally charged film.

Oscar

Words cannot express how phenomenal Michael B. Jordan is as Oscar Grant.

There are little twitches and expressions in Michael B. Jordan’s face, which provides a nuanced, complex performance of a complicated man apparently ready to become a new, better person. An audible gasp could be heard from my living room when Oscar decides to change his life and disposes his past into the ocean. But I did have a problem with a particularly heavy-handed scene in which Oscar comforts a dying a pit bull who was hit by a car because 1) I had a dog that was killed by a car so I’m sensitive to that emotional exploitation of animals, and 2) the comparison between pit bulls and young black males was wholly unnecessary and just sloppily slapped together. That was the hallmark of a first-time writer/director.

For sizeable stretches of Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan puts on a one-man show—an acting clinic that all Academy Award voters must at least appreciate in an increasingly crowded field this year. Melonie Diaz is serviceable in her role, but the only truly great supporting performance comes from Octavia Spencer as the mother of Oscar Grant. You feel her anguish and despair as well as the love for her child (even if he’s actually a grown man now). The room might even get a little dusty near the last stop of Fruitvale Station.

Wee Bey

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    It’s a very emotional film that ends on a bleak note, but still shows that there is some change in this world that needs to happen, and happen now. Good review.

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