Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness and Man of Steel, but for those looking for something a bit more unique, there has been no shortage of small-market films that have managed to reach a mainstream audience. Standouts include Derek Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines, Jeff Nichols' Mud, Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's The Way, Way Back and Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, with no end in sight for original fare outside the purview of major production companies and their bottom-dollar desires. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to make money; it's just nice to see films that wasn't designed to pry the largest dollar amount it can from audiences. And the best of those right now might be Fruitvale Station, the freshman effort from 27 year-old director Ryan Coogler.
Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young, unarmed black man who was gunned down by transit cops in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009. The movie looks at his last 24 hours, struggling to get his life and relationships on track, and culminating in that fateful incident that is still remembered today by the city's residents.
Chronicle), an actor who has shown over the years to know how to inhabit any type of character. Jordan makes us LIKE Oscar, despite the young man's flaws, and that's arguably the most important aspect as to making Fruitvale Station work. Thanks to Jordan and Coogler, we see his friendliness, love for his mother and daughter, and willingness to help others (to the point where he connects a friendly stranger with his grandmother so the woman can learn a decent fish fry), combined with the empathy we feel as he tries to get his issues under control.
The Help) as Oscar's long-suffering and strong-willed mother. Though Spencer's scenes are used mainly for exposition, her sheer skill as an actress keeps them from feeling wasted or unworthy of our viewing. Melonie Diaz also shines when given the chance as Oscar's girlfriend, as does child actress Ariana Neal as his precocious daughter, but their scenes are merely at the fringes, and though their presence is often felt, the characters are often simply absent. Despite the fact that much of this movie relies on Jordan's singular performance, Coogler has at least put together a cast that can fill in the holes where his lead actor's otherwise-perfect presence is not enough.