MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By The Weinstein Company
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz
Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant (Jordan), a young man shot to death while waiting for a train by a Bay Area Rapid Transit policeman on New Year’s Eve 2009. This is not a spoiler, since the film begins with the cell phone video (one of several) documenting the actual California shooting. The videos went viral on the Internet and several protests took place in the days following Grant’s death. County prosecutors argued that this shooting was an act of murder; the defense claimed that it was an accidental death.
A documentary about this tragedy might begin with a point of view and then find the facts to corroborate the theory. Fruitvale Station is not a documentary, but a docudrama that simply follows Oscar Grant around town during the last 24 hours of his life. Oscar is charming and quick thinking, but he is also a 22-year-old trying to make the move from adolescence to adulthood. He is an unmarried father to a little girl (adorable Ariana Neal) who he loves with all his heart, but he has been having a hard time staying faithful to Sophina (Diaz), her mother. Oscar is working on being better, but he can’t help flirting with any attractive woman. Grant has been involved with drug dealing (and has even served some short time in prison) and is beginning to think about cleaning up his act. But, yes, he does have a habit of being less than truthful about many things.
Why should we care about a man like Oscar Grant? The goal of Fruitvale Station is to make us care, and it does a wonderful job accomplishing this feat. We see Grant’s mother (Octavia Spencer in a nice bit part), still able to call him out and love him deeply, who has not lost hope in her son. Sophina also has hope for Oscar and is working hard to make a better life for their family. We see Oscar showing many acts of kindness and the film argues for the possibilities that, with faith and friendship, might have become Grant’s if his life had not been cut short.
In a recent interview following the “not guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin during a neighborhood watch, Trayvon’s Christian parents showed grace and dignity, simply commenting that their son was just a teenager on his way home. Senseless shootings are never easy to understand.
Fruitvale Station makes you feel the loss of Oscar Grant by depicting this tragedy as a combination of misinformation, misunderstanding, alcohol, and male bravado.
Jesus gave his life on the cross for the world because, in God’s eyes, every life matters and everyone is worthy of redemption. Fruitvale Station believes this as well. If you can handle some strong street language, it is well worth seeing.
Three halos: A tragic death precipitates this simple cry for compassion and understanding.
Two pitchforks Some violent acts including one of manslaughter, drug abuse, intimations of unfaithfulness, and a lot of swearing; if you find cursing offensive, add another pitchfork and don’t board Fruitvale Station.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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