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Terry's Take

Movie Review: FRUITVALE STATION

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On New Year's Eve 2008, an unarmed 22 year old African American man was shot and killed by a white police officer at a BART station in Oakland, CA. That tragic incident is the basis for a powerful dramatic movie called FRUITVALE STATION which recreates the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant, the unemployed 22 year old man who was killed during the confusion that followed a fight on the train.
      
The movie doesn't turn Oscar into a saint, nor does it sentimentalize his life. Instead, this strong drama makes us understand what life must been like for a young African American who, much like Trayvon Martin, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The film begins by showing cell phone video of the real Oscar Grant's death. Then we get an imagined recreation of Oscar's last day on earth. Michael B. Jordan plays the troubled young man who has just lost his job because of chronic lateness.
      
The movie doesn't shrink from showing us that Oscar has been selling marijuana to earn money and in the film's only flashback we also learn that he's spent time in jail.
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer plays his mother. She's worried about Oscar's four year old daughter.

Mom:  That baby doesn't deserve this, Oscar.
Oscar: She doesn't know what's goin' on.
Mom: So I guess that's why she asks me why you love taking your vacations more than you love bein' with her.
Oscar: Ma, you gotta tell her I love her.

Oscar is hot tempered, a trait that constantly gets him in trouble. But we also are shown that he's a caring father who lives with the mother of his child.

Daughter: I'm scared.
Oscar: Scared of what?
Daughter: I hear guns outside.
Oscar: You know what baby; those are just firecrackers. you're safe inside with your cousins.
Daughter: What about you daddy?
Oscar: Me? Baby, I'm gonna be fine.

And then there's the irony that his mother urges him to take the train instead of driving to San Francisco for New Year's eve.

Mom: Why don't you take the train out there? That way you guys can hang out and not have to worry about anything.

But of course that's not the way things worked out.

FRUITVALE STATION is a little tough to watch, but it's an important, well acted tragic drama that sheds plenty of light on the huge problem of racial stereotyping that still goes on in America.

Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.              thunter@hawaiinewsnow.com