Fruitvale Station (7/10)
Starting with mobile phone camera film of the actual killing of Oscar
Grant (Michael B. Jordan) at the BART Fruitvale Station in Oakland, the
film then flashes back to develop the character of Grant so we know him
pretty well when he’s killed once again at the end of the film. The
first hour is very slow and drags far too much leading up to the climax.
Writer/director Ryan Coogler doesn’t pull any punches as he paints Grant
as a hot-tempered drug dealer who fathers an out of wedlock daughter with
his girlfriend, Sophina (Melanie Diaz) and is “thinking” about marrying
Sophina. He doesn’t work much but she does. He’s an ex-con. The only
things admirable about him are Sophina, his daughter, and his apparently
unwed mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer). Without comment, this paints a
devastating picture of what’s wrong with black society, the breakdown of
the traditional family with strong unwed mothers raising irresponsible sons
who continue the irresponsibility of their fathers by fathering other
children without the benefit of a marital commitment.
so, Coogler creates a relatively sympathetic picture of Oscar leading up
to the tragedy at Fruitvale Station. The acting is exceptionally good.
While I thought the first hour interminably boring, it is more than made
up for by the way Coogler stages the deadly confrontation and an ending
that leaves one in tears.
follows is a spoiler, so if you want to see the film without knowing,
was a case in which the legal system showed a dismal weakness. The
transit officer who shot Grant claimed that he thought he was reaching
for his stun gun, but pulled his hand gun instead and administered a
deadly wound. His punishment? He was convicted of “involuntary
manslaughter,” sentenced to three years and got out in one. This is
ridiculous. People who are given the right to carry a gun and use it
should be held to an extremely high standard. If they are so
irresponsible that they cannot tell the difference between a stun gun
and a real gun, they should be responsible for their actions. An
innocent man died as a result of this person’s actions. Maybe what he
did does fit the definition of “involuntary manslaughter” but it was
also criminally negligent and the penalty for a man’s death should have
been much more severe than a three year sentence and back out on the
street after only serving one year while an innocent Oscar Grant lies
moldering in his grave for all eternity.