“If Beale Street Could Talk”–movie review   Leave a comment

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Start off a movie with a strong love story with two new young stars, KiKi Layne as 19-year-old Tish and Stephan James as 22-year-old Alonzo ‘Fonny’ Hunt who share strong on-screen chemistry, and you have got me! Add an interesting, oft-told but never a boring story that is as true today as when it was written about in 1974 by the brilliant writer James Baldwin. Top it off with Nina Simone on the soundtrack there is no turning back.
After winning an Oscar for writing, and directing, the award-winning “Moonlight” Barry Jenkins returns with “If Beale Street Could Talk”, a story of a Black boy wrongfully accused of rape who, after being jailed, finds out the girl he loves is pregnant. From that point on we are steered into different angles but the love between Tish and Fonny is always strong even, when not thinking, he says something to her that is cruel and wrong. They hadn’t married yet not because he didn’t want to but her parents and sister, along with his father, strongly support the couple and, without hesitation, offer their help with the new baby. Colman Domingo as her father, Teyonah Parris as her sister and Michael Beach as his father are very strong on screen, especially with the ways the older sister shows Tish her love. Domingo and Beach have a mesmerizing scene in a bar where they discuss what Black fathers have to do to help their children.
On the evening when she tells her family that she is pregnant her father calls Fonny’s family to come over and that is when we meet his father, mother and 2 sisters. Aunjanue Ellis, playing the mother, is an overzealous Christian with 2 daughters, Ebony Obsidian and Dominique Thorne, who are not only taking after their mother but get their comeuppance from Tish’s sister. There is also a very unexpected moment in the scene that made most of the audience gasp.
Regina King is very strong as the mother who knows the woman, Emily Rios, who pointed the finger, via the racist cop, Ed Skrein, was put up to it and faces up to her.  There is a scene just before the two women face each other where King, alone, spends time looking in a mirror putting and taking off a wig that is very intense but runs just a bit too long, not that it isn’t interesting just delaying the story.
There is a scene between Fonny and his old buddy Daniel, played by Brian Tyree Henry, where the latter talks about being arrested and having the ‘choice’ of admitting to stealing a car, though he doesn’t know how to drive or carrying marijuana with the latter being a lighter sentence which is the one he chooses. Unfortunately Henry speaks too softly to be completely understood though what he has to say is very important.
Barry Jenkins does an excellent job bringing Baldwin’s writing to the screen but makes a few mistakes consisting of running 3-4 scenes too long slowing the film down, not following up on 2 points made earlier in the film and jumping back and forth in time though it can be followed if one watches closely regarding the love between the leads and her figure! He, also, has added an excellent score to the movie.
I don’t particularly like sex on screen but leading up to Tish losing her virginity and the actual act is one of the most lyrical love scenes ever seen on film and while the director is responsible for placing the camera it is the faces and the way they hold, use their bodies, of KiKi Layne and Stephan James that raise their love to a higher level.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is an excellent film just short of being a classic strictly due to the director’s missteps but Jenkins takes credit for all that is right about the film. It is the best genre film I have seen since “The Hate U Give” and Kiki Layne’s film debut is as impressive as Amandla Stenberg was in that film.

Movie trailer




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