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Review: If Beale Street Could Talk – Director: Barry Jenkins

9:15PM Screening at Hyland Cinema

Theatre Service: 10/10

Projection: 10/10

If Beale Street Could Talk 1 hr 59 mins

A similar 3-act structure to “Moonlight” that follows our lead actress, Tish, as she learns the lengths of her love for Lonny her childhood sweetheart. Although this is a strongly structured film it wasn’t as strong as Moonlight, partly because with the knowledge that it is based from a book you constantly can’t help but feel like it’s not the complete story.

This is a story of how childhood friends turned lovers find out soon one of them will be going to jail and one will have a baby. Tish is determined to fin the truth behind Lonny’s wrongful accusation. Originally a book written by James Baldwin, this film brings to light some of the key struggles for middle and lower class Americans in the 1960s and the similarities between the racism and hate experienced then with what is happening in our world today. From a social perspective this is the perfect time for Jenkins to bring a story like this to the public’s eye while creating a cast of majority African American actors.

Began in one place and jumped all around in the past to build the character relationship like dipping into someone’s memory banks. Scene by scene editing set this film apart from others this year. While some scenes ran long and still and patient others were short blurbs or artistic abstract moments that could standalone. Overall the montage bookends of the film really make it memorable as a 60 period piece and an adaptation.

Expertly cast, the families in this film really felt lived in and real for the decade portrayal. The lead Actor and Actress were incredible as a couple and even more dynamic when apart in the film. Regina king was killing it – she probably deserves the Oscar this year for best supporting Actress for her scene in Puerto Rico alone. The scene in the bar that outlined the perspective from the fathers’ point of view was so convincingly displayed it is probably one of the moments that stuck the most after the first watch.

A cinematographer that knows how to execute what the director needs and a director that knows what he wants as a vision. This film was shot unlike any other movie the past year and definitely did something unique in the world of novel to film adaptations. The different ways James Laxton was able to visually express the descriptive language used in the screenplay, novel and from Jenkins to bring these characters to life was ground-breaking. We believe he deserved a nomination for best cinematography in the Academy awards. The extreme close ups that trigger memories: the cops face, the grandmothers argument, the birth, the perfume counter – he used this film technique to create a deeper layer of understanding for the viewer. And this lens/camera combo has been used on previous films such as “Ant-Man,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. What it comes down to is how Laxton chose to use them.

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Soundtrack and score was phenomenal, the theme repeats in your head as your leave the theatre. It was fitting for the film, sucks you in to the lives of the characters and isn’t too overwhelming. As much as there is music there is silence or ambience when required.

Not a movie you need to revisit and re-watch often, the message will resonate with you. For all the beauty, the fabulous acting, set design, and moral moments, there are the cringe-worthy actions of our past that are at times difficult to comprehend, imagine, or willingly want to relive so accurately. Although the underlying is to have hope an strength and love, the film does end on quite a depressing note – make the most out of life even when you’re stuck living in an unjust situation.

 

>> 8.5/10 <<

Pacing: 8.5/10

Editing: 8.5/10

Plot: 8/10

Acting: 8.5/10

Cinematography: 9.5/10

Re-watch-ability: 2.5/10

Soundtrack: 9/10