Fruitvale Station

Oscar Grant, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer
Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant and what happened to him at the BART station in Oakland, California, on New Year's Day 2009. I had not heard of his story before, but I looked it up before seeing the movie; because of this, I knew how Oscar (semi-spoiler) met his untimely death, but not how the movie would portray the events leading up to it.

Oscar Grant is a complicated 22-year-old. He was previously in jail for selling drugs, as we see in a flashback scene, but he eventually got out and now is trying to be a good boyfriend to Sophina (Melonie Diaz), a good father to he and Sophina's young daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal), and a responsible son to his mom, Wanda (Octavia Spencer). He has recently been fired from his job at a grocery store, for showing up late, and when he appeals to his manager to try and get the job back (to which the manager says no), Oscar makes an appointment to sell some drugs to a former "colleague," for some quick cash. There's this Oscar, but then there's also another Oscar, who cradles a dog in his arms after a hit and run, and the Oscar who cares deeply for his little girl. The Oscar who the BART police see on New Years Day, however, is just an African-American kid who is resisting arrest, and a deadly "perfect storm" combination leads to his demise.

This movie started off a little slow, almost like a "slice of life" film. It takes place on New Year's Eve Day, 2008, and we see Oscar interact with all of the people in his life. One particularly interesting scene was when he was at the grocery store, talking to his brother who still worked there, and he started trying to help a young-ish white woman (Ahna O'Reilly) who needed to buy fish to fry, but was unsure of what kind. The camera shows that she's a bit wary of Oscar - she visibly steps to the side a bit as he walks towards her to help - but his personality and the fact that he calls up his grandma and has her talk to the customer on the phone with fish recipes puts her at ease.

Yes, see this film. It's already getting Academy Awards buzz and Michael B. Jordan as Oscar and Octavia Spencer as his mother are great in the film. Even if you know Oscar's story, to watch his final day play out will ultimately shock you - Oscar could be anyone, and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I will say that the film didn't downplay Oscar's flaws either (former drug dealer, etc.) which it could have done; I thought this was an interesting choice but helped to make the movie more well-rounded overall.

Fruitvale Station is in theaters today, July 26th, and is rated R with a runtime of 90 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.

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