Make no mistake, Fruitvale Station has the grit and grime of a socio-political picture assembled to win film festival awards (it bagged both of Sundance’s Grand Jury and Audience Prizes) and was quickly snapped up by Harvey Weinstein for added film market baggage. This is one of those issue films that will no doubt saturate the public consciousness come awards season, with its ripped-from-the-headlines nature and its thorny racial debate. But I just can’t help but realise that I might be one of the very few who found Ryan Coogler’s debut film mediocre and slightly exasperating. Beneath all this based-on-factual-events premise, there’s nothing really new that we don’t know about police brutality and the society’s prejudices against the marginal, disenfranchised lives of the many blue-collared workers. The story is doubtlessly tragic, and makes me furious to think that a guy such as Oscar Grant gets shot by a brute cop in a train station for no lawfully concrete reason.
My main gripe revolves around Oscar’s characterisation and Coogler’s script, both open to manipulations inherent in many true-to-life tales. We know this happened, but Fruitvale Station the Film is as prone to dramatisation for the sake of drama itself, making Coogler’s attempts in drawing sympathy from Oscar a bit contrived. In portraying Oscar’s 24 remaining hours of his life prior to the terrible incident (Michael B. Jordan does a fine job, nonetheless), we are shown Oscar the protagonist as a redeeming goody two-shoes, despite losing his job for being perpetually late, being an ex-drug dealer, occasionally cheating on his girlfriend, and somehow ending up in prison in one flashback. But Oscar is also a father, a lover, a son, a philanthropist, a canine lover and part-time patron saint – which makes the shooting of this blameless 22-year old young man the death of hope for all humankind. If it were a documentary shot in real-time, I genuinely believe the nuances would be an irrefutably different picture altogether.[separator type=”space”] DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler | CAST: Michael B. Jordan, Kevin Durand, Octavia Spencer | SCREENPLAY: Ryan Coogler | PRODUCER: Significant Productions | RUNNING-TIME: 90 mins | GENRE: Drama | COUNTRY: USA