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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Fruitvale Station” a culturally relevant drama


    “Fruitvale Station” is undoubtedly one of the most socially relevant films now showing in theaters. Based on the real-life events of Jan. 1, 2009, the movie spotlights the last day of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a black man who was shot in the back while being detained by Bay Area Rapid Transit officers in Oakland, Calif.. Released on July 26, the movie is timely considering the recent trial of George Zimmerman. As a result, “Fruitvale Station” has sparked and will continue to inspire discussion about race and violence in American.

    But regardless of its cultural significance, the film also stands on its own artistic and cinematic merits.

    Dec. 31, 2008: the less-than-remarkable last day of 22-year-old Grant’s life. The film follows Grant from morning to evening as he drops his daughter off at daycare, picks up crab for his mother Wanda’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday and meets up with friends.

    Roughly half of the 85-minute film chronicles an average day in Grant’s life in an effort to establish him as a complex, real human being. Grant isn’t glorified; he’s simply shown as a young man trying provide for his girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), and do better with his life for the coming new year. Hoping to turn over a new leaf, he dumps a bag of marijuana into San Francisco Bay instead of selling it — but only after meeting up with a friend to pass off more drugs.

    Grant’s obvious love for his daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal), is juxtaposed with a flashback to when Grant spent time in prison the year before.

    By the time night descends on the Bay Area in “Fruitvale Station,” the audience has come to care about Grant because of how honest the film’s portrayal of him feels.

    In contrast to the slower pace of the day, once Grant and his friends get on the train in the evening, events deteriorate into a chaotic blur, over almost as soon as it starts.

    A fight breaks out. The train is stopped. Grant and some of his friends are detained. There’s shouting, pushing, punching, bystanders taking video with their cell phones — then a gunshot. The sequence is executed adeptly by 27-year-old director Ryan Coogler.

    The performances from main players Jordan, Spencer and Diaz are excellent. Spencer plays the matriarchal figure with gravitas and solemnity. Diaz radiates sincerity in her role as Oscar’s girlfriend and displays fantastic range, being distant, playful, angry and supportive in turn.

    Jordan, though, carries the full weight of the movie as Grant. He can go from charming a young woman in a supermarket to threatening his boss for firing him in a matter of seconds, effortlessly bringing his character’s inner turmoil boiling to the surface.

    The film never lets the audience forget about the role race plays in Grant’s daily life. Grant’s half-sister Chantay (Destiny Ekwueme) asks him to pick up a ‘black’ birthday card for their mother, meaning one without any white people on it (Grant contrarily picks the whitest card the supermarket has on display). One of Grant’s uncles says that he roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers because they have black uniforms, black players and a black coach with a black wife.

    The film’s climax on the train platform, it portrays the white police officers as detaining Grant simply because he is black. After looking into a train compartment filled wall to wall with white people, an officer singles out Grant without knowing whether he was involved in the fight or not.

    However, there is one aspect of Grant’s tale that isn’t quite done justice. At the end of the movie, brief screens of text summarize the real-life aftermath of the shooting, such as the verdict of involuntary manslaughter received by Johannes Mehserle, the officer who shot Grant. But short snippets of cold fact cannot do justice to the complexity of the trial.

    Unfortunately, without elaboration or explanation, the movie summarily dismisses the court’s ruling and the officer’s punishment as insufficient.

    Still, the audience can’t help but leave the theater feeling profoundly sad. At its heart, “Fruitvale Station” is a moving the story of a kid who was killed on his way home.

    “Fruitvale Station” will play at The Loft Cinema through Thursday. For exact showtimes, visit

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