Here’s a pair of examples that fiction is stranger than truth.
The Hate U Give
George Tillman, Jr.
Why it won’t end here
In this troubling era of Black Lives Matter and “Hands up, don’t shoot” there are a number of important films that grapple with America’s black-white divide (cross-references below) that ought to be seen.
Tillman’s take on this issue (fuelled by screenwriters Audrey Wells, Angie Thomas—based on Thomas’ YA novel) feels like a compilation of the dangerous mix of drugs, poverty and entitlement peppered with moments of real courage that make headlines every day.
I defy anyone to watch this film and not shed many tears—for the “fictional” situations amidst the backdrop of the next black man shot to death while “reaching for a hairbrush,” during a “routine” traffic violation pullover, which fill the pages of large and small media alike, seemingly endlessly.
The cast, ably led by Amandla Stenberg as 16-year-old, going on 30, Starr—the only witness to the cop killing her life-long friend, Khalil—engagingly portrayed by Algee Smith, hits most of their markers with the possible exception of extra-bad-guy King (Anthony Mackie playing the black, ruthless drug lord who takes no prisoners, adding balance and irony along the way), too easily accepts his fate. Starr’s white, privileged boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa) serves mostly as racial-smart window dressing due to the lack of serious development of his character.
Surprisingly, the Pollyanna-ish happy ending, paints a far more positive outlook about the road ahead for all races trying to “get along” in the “Land of the Free”, leaving some viewers with the wrong impression of what might really be required to find “Just Us, Justice for Khalil”.
Dying to live
As a very young boy, I read my share of super hero comics—delighting in the escapades and always successful outcomes for those above us who have the abilities to save the planet from itself and the “bad guys”.
In this second installment of the Deadpool cinema franchise, I was mightily impressed with the visual and computer effects (cobbled together by an army of designers, technicians and “what if?” wizards, but came away wishing that as much attention to detail had gone into the screenplay (Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds). For me, there is a strong feeling that the visual tail was wagging the narrative dog.
But the clichés (“Kids give us the chance to be better than we are”; “filtered the pain through the prism of humour”), slow the pace down in a production whose overarching premise can stretch the realm of credibility even as much as the plot points can be seen a mile away (the two antagonists—Ryan Reynolds in the title role and Josh Brolin as Cable, morph into battle buddies—replete with a spurious ass grab—with lazy simplicity).
The rest of the cast go through their paces with aplomb (kudos to Zazie Beetz as “lucky” Domino; Leslie Uggams as the wonderfully handicapped Blind Al; Karan Soni as blood luster extraordinaire (until the moment of potential death—his—arrives) Dopinder; and most especially Julian Dennison’s convincing take on child-abused, revenge-seeking Firefist).
But it is the visual treats that will keep audiences young and old engaged and—at times: the parachute drop is a marvel—entranced. Discreet pop-ups (e.g., WHIT 17 News—no explanation required) will reward those who revel in the details.
But by the time it comes for Deadpool to bid adieu (again, again, and again…) the setup for the next installment seems more like a warning than a hope. JWR