Fruitvale Station
Runtime: 1 h 25 min
Rated: R
Released: 26 Jul 2013
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler
Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand
DVD release: 14 Jan 2014
Box Office: $16.1M
Company: The Weinstein Company
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IMDB link

Tomato user meter: 91%
Tomato consensus: Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan.

Fruitvale Station

Biography, Drama
The purportedly true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
94%Rotten Tomatoes
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    • Based on or Inspired by?Greetings again from the darkness. It's not politically correct to criticize this movie, but it seems only fair to treat it as I do every other movie on which I comment. If that sounds like a bashing is coming, you are mistaken. In fact, this is an emotionally-charged, well written and exceptionally well-acted movie that provides much anticipation for the future projects of its first time director Ryan Coogler. However, in my opinion, it is also flawed in its "Based on a True Story" placard that is then followed by much manipulation (3 Oprah references), some of it even bordering on misleading.

      If you are unfamiliar with the tragic story, 22 year old Oscar Grant was inexplicably shot and killed (while subdued and face down) by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop after watching New Year's Eve fireworks with his girlfriend and buddies. An altercation/fight occurred on the train and the officers pulled Grant aside to detain/arrest. Much of this was caught on cell phone video by train passengers, and the aftermath brought protests in the city. The officer was tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years. He claimed he mistook his gun for his Taser.

      No one can argue that this was anything but a senseless tragedy. Director Coogler even begins his movie with actual cell phone footage of the incident. The ending is known and seared in the viewer's mind before the story even begins. Whether the senseless shooting was racially driven is a topic for debate, but the current media focus on the George Zimmerman trial and his killing of Trayvon Martin makes the timing of this movie quite compelling.

      Coogler certainly points out that Grant (adeptly played by Michael B Jordan) was no angel. We learn about his prison stints, his drug dealing, his unfaithfulness to his girlfriend (the mother of his daughter), his lack of responsibility (losing his job due to chronic absence), his string of lies, and most glaringly ... his terrifyingly quick and violent temper. My issue with the film is the seemingly inordinate amount of time Coogler spends on the flip side -- the focus on Oscar's desire to get his life back on track. So much effort and so many scenes are written to exhibit how Oscar is a charming guy with a big heart. He helps out a white lady in the grocery store, he takes a big step towards leaving the drug dealing life, he plans his mother's birthday party, heck ... he even cradles a poor dog that was hit by a car. This inequity in storytelling apparently has only one purpose ... to create another symbol of racial injustice. We are not left to ponder if the real Oscar is the one who inspires his daughter to brush her teeth or the one who bows up to a foul-mouthed convict. Instead, Coogler wants us to believe that Oscar was now a good guy who had put his past behind him ... all in the 24 hours leading up to his death.

      The fact is, there are two sides of Oscar, just like everyone has multiple facets to their personality. Most of us learn to control the sides that doesn't mesh well with society ... others really struggle to do so. Michael B Jordan delivers a powerful performance as Oscar, and he and Octavia Spencer (who plays his mom) will both garner awards attention. Other supporting work is provided by Melonie Diaz as his girlfriend, Ariana Neal as his precious daughter, Ahna O'Reilly as the shopper, and Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray as the BART cops.

      This film was the hit of both Sundance and Cannes, and was produced by Forest Whitaker. A major tip of the cap to BART for allowing the filmmakers to work on location at the actual Fruitvale station, for a level of authenticity. Coogler chooses one last bit of manipulation with his closing video of Oscar's daughter Tatiana at a recent memorial outside of Fruitvale station ... followed by on screen text of the officer's two year sentence. We get no details on the trial, only the assumption that the sentence does not deliver justice, but rather another example of racial bias.

      Lastly I'll say that the decision to make a dramatization rather than a documentary was interesting. This allowed the director to focus on Oscar the good guy. A documentary would have required facts from the trial, a better perspective of the train disturbance and probably fewer Oprah references. The dramatization makes the movie more emotionally charged and more effective at inspiring discussion, rather than debate. Despite all of that, this is extraordinary filmmaking from a first time director, and I will certainly look forward to Ryan Coogler's next project.
      show full movie reviewsource7/10
    • Let's hope greater exposure gets this film more intelligent reviewsI don't usually bother writing reviews, but this is a good little film that I feel has been unfairly maligned by a few uninformed reviewers here, so I'll add my two cents:

      Fruitvale Station is a solid film, well paced and edited, with a strong lead performance by Michael B. Jordan and some standout work by Octavia Spencer. The sound design is particularly noteworthy. The cinema verite camera-work (No, "M. Brand," the visual style here was a choice; well made student films, even cheap ones, generally look better than this) left me underwhelmed for most of the film (and honestly, the mistimed focus pulls were pretty distracting) but paid off big time in the Fruitvale sequence. There the cinematography, editing, sound design, and score combined to create the most gripping ten minutes of film I've seen in a year. I'd recommend Fruitvale on the strength of this sequence alone.

      Ryan Coogler admittedly takes some dramatic license with the story. Some of it (the Katie character) works, some (the bit with the dog) comes off heavy-handed. None of it gave me any reason to question the film's "fidelity" to the facts. The unfettered access to Oscar's family, legal documents from the criminal and civil case (including all the video taken on the scene), and the tacit approval of BART (They were allowed to film on the actual BART platform and in their cars!) gives me no reason to believe this film takes any more narrative license with the facts of the Fruitvale incident than many documentaries would.

      The film is not perfect. Some of the performances are subpar, some of the improvised dialogue bumps, and the day-in-the-life conceit, while not ignoring Oscar's spotty past, does paint him in an unrealistically rosy light. But by and large this is a moving, gripping, at times infuriating film that will stick with you after the credits roll. Congratulations to Coogler and his team.

      **As for the troll who called this film "socially irresponsible," your opinion and the reasoning behind it are so abhorrent I struggle to imagine any person, no matter how ignorant or loathsome they might be, taking you seriously.
      show full movie reviewsource7/10
    • Passionate and sympathetic portrayal of a complex and struggling young manThis film depicts story of a deeply flawed young man struggling to turn his life around. The movie reveals the generous good-hearted nature of Oscar, on whose life the story is based. The awards the film has won are well deserved, as the film-maker succeeds in presenting an unsparing look at Oscar's many failings even as he humanizes this young man whose life is largely unknown to the American public. In a quite amazing fashion, all of this is done through the lens of a single day in Oscar's life, with only the aid of one brief flash-back.

      Despite his efforts and his kindness, Oscar is failing to transcend his past as much as he is succeeding in doing so. His struggle to change is fueled by his relationships with three women central to his life, and we are on the edge of our seats watching his relationships play out with them, knowing before the movie begins how it will end. It is a credit to the film-maker that he is able both to maintain that tension and at the same time to draw us into Oscar's world so effectively. This craftsmanship only underlines the tragedy of the final outcome more starkly.

      It is sad that the review that wins pride of place on this website ignores Oscar and focuses on Officer Mehserle, who appears only briefly in the movie. The film does not demonize Officer Mehserle, and one might be tempted to do, but rather presents him as a blank slate. Surely, as those who witnessed the events appeared to do, and as the jury who found him guilty corroborated, we might well assume that he committed a crime. However, his motives are not suggested in the movie, his youth is clearly depicted, and his inexperience implied. Surely any professional, a doctor for example, who makes a mistake of motor memory under pressure and thus takes the life of another human being, should be held accountable for her actions to the full extent of the law.
      show full movie reviewsource9/10
    • Saw this at SundanceI knew nothing about the true story behind this film before I saw it but Ryan Coogler did an impressive job of telling this controversial story. Coogler takes us to the last day in 2008, and introduces us to Oscar Grant's life. A young, troubled father that is trying to do the right thing by his family. This was his debut at Sundance and he didn't disappoint. The audience laughed when the actors laughed and shed tears when the actors shed tears...it was a very moving film. By the end of the film I felt as though I knew these people personally. The whole cast did an excellent job! I'm looking forward to hearing more about Ryan Coogler in the future.show full movie reviewsource10/10
    • Tragic, sympathetic and simple. Fruitvale Station takes us inside the world of the late Oscar GrantBased on the true story of one of the most heart wrenching instances of police brutality in American history, Fruitvale Station humanizes Oscar Grant, a victim of senseless police violence and racial profiling. This film does not paint him as a saint nor does it paint him as a crook, it shows him as a human being with many flaws. Michael B. Jordan gives an electrifying performance as Oscar Grant. He doesn't miss a single step and delivers a performance that has solidified him as a force to be reckoned with on screen. The film, as a whole, works but not for storytelling. This is a film that has great performances and that keeps it above average on many levels. If there was anyone else playing these roles, especially Jordan, I feel as if the film wouldn't pack as much of a punch. Ryan Coogler directs the hell out of his actors and does a fantastic job keeping pace. Running at just below an hour and a half, the film moves. It doesn't drag, it doesn't lack, it is a beautiful and moving portrayal of a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the decisions that he made to put him at Fruitvale Station on that fateful night.

      Overall, this is a film with powerhouse performances that needs to be seen. The 2013 awards season definitely has a contender in Fruitvale Station along with a soon-to-be Oscar nominated Michael B. Jordan.
      show full movie reviewsource9/10