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Fruitvale Station Review

By Lexi Feinberg

Forbidden Fruitvale


By all accounts, "Fruitvale Station" shouldn't work. It's a yank-at-the-heartstrings true story about a young African-American man trying to get his act together and find redemption. Instead, he finds a bullet in his back at the hands of a cop and dies tragically at 22. The film also comes from a first-time feature writer/director named Ryan Coogler. All signs point to failure, but "Fruitvale Station" is such a powerful movie that if you're not deeply moved by it, you may need to check your pulse.

Fruitvale Station, located in Oakland, California, is where Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer on the final day of 2008. The movie is about the last day of his life, and it kicks off with grainy cell phone footage of the actual shooting, which is horrifying. We know there is no happy ending to this story, but somehow we hope we will get one anyway. Oscar (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan) has a drug-dealing past and is trying to turn things around after serving some time in jail. He loves his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz), 4-year-old daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and mother (Octavia Spencer) and tries to do right by them. He's not a saint - he can sure be hotheaded at times - but he's the kind of guy who will help a stranger master a fish fry with the aid of his grandma, and brighten his daughter's day just by smiling at her.

There is a natural ease to the film that enhances the sense of dread. It's good timing for its release too, as the Trayvon Martin case is all over the headlines, and there are some similarities. Jordan ("The Wire," "Friday Night Lights") does a wonderful job of portraying Oscar as a multi-faceted person; he is funny and charming and troubled. The film's one problem is going overboard in a scene where he holds a stray, bleeding pitbull after it's been hit by a car in the street. This didn't happen in real life, and tries too hard to pound home his goodness.

"Fruitvale Station" won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It's a film that will appeal to critics and moviegoers who want an emotional wallop and aren't in the mood for the giant robots or fake Superman stories which currently inhabit theaters.

What did you think?

Movie title Fruitvale Station
Release year 2013
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary We know there is no happy ending to this story, but somehow we hope we will get one anyway.
View all articles by Lexi Feinberg
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