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Watching "Fruitvale Station"
Published on August 14, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the powerful new movie "Fruitvale Station."

Here's an excerpt:

"I was a little wary of 'Fruitvale Station.'

The buzz was very strong, but a lot of people seemed to be responding to the film not as a piece of cinema, but as a teachable moment. 'Fruitvale Station' tells the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a transit cop in San Francisco in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, and I wondered whether people were embracing the film because it was important, rather than good. But I shouldn’t have worried. 'Fruitvale Station' is one of the best films of the year.

What’s amazing is how enjoyable 'Fruitvale Station' is, considering its downbeat ending. The film opens with real cellphone footage of Grant’s shooting, which caused at least one moviegoer to gasp during the screening of the film that I attended, and then transitions to a domestic scene featuring Oscar (Michael B. Jordan), his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their young daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal). The moment is fraught with tension — Sophina is angry because Oscar has cheated on her — but reaches a gentle resolution when Tatiana, unable to sleep, climbs in bed with her parents. Seemingly unimportant, this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, which follows Oscar around during his final hours.

Over the next 85 minutes or so, we get to know Oscar. We learn that he recently got out of prison and is trying to go straight; however, he just lost his job at a grocery store as a result of chronic lateness and loses his cool when the store owner won’t rehire him. We watch him chat up a pretty woman at the deli counter, and wonder whether he meant what he said when he assured Sophina that he had stopped cheating on her, and we see how shaken up he is when a speeding driver kills a dog. Most of all, we see that he loves his daughter, his girlfriend and his mom (Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for 'The Help'), and that they love him. We understand that he is not a saint, but we like him, because he seems to have a good heart. The film is so observant, funny and full of life that we forget that Oscar is doomed.

Click here to read the whole thing.

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