[Early Review] If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Director: Barry Jenkins

Cast: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, Ed Skrein, Brian Tyree Henry, Regina King, Emily Rios, Finn Wittrock

Screenplay: Barry Jenkins

119 mins. Rated R for language and some sexual content.

 

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, Medicine for Melancholy) carries a lot of clout based on his recent Best Picture win, and for his follow-up feature, he adapted James Baldwin’s classic novel If Beale Street Could Talk. I’ve had a copy of the book on my shelf for some time and have yet to reach for it (there are stacks of books to read in front of the bookshelf; I’m doubtful I could even reach it at the moment), but I’ve been aware of its important for a while now. I know the book is very important and personal to Jenkins, and the trailers have been magnificent, and so is the finished product.

The film is the story of Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James, Race, TV’s Homecoming) and their love story. Fonny has been incarcerated for the rape of Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios, Quinceanera, TV’s Snowfall), but Tish knows he’s innocent. She was with him that night, and she knows Fonny. There’s a cop, though, Officer Bell (Ed Skrein, Deadpool, The Transporter Refueled), who claims he saw Fonny flee the scene. Now, Tish is tasked with proving Fonny’s innocence while carrying his child, and her loving family is fighting for them.

If Beale Street Could Talk is a damn beautiful love story. It’s sweet and tender and, at times funny and heartbreaking. Kiki Layne shines as a standout in her first feature film, and Stephan James is incredible. He is able to say so much with his eyes. In fact, one of the most powerful elements of Jenkins’s film is his letting the camera focus on one person and just letting them breathe and feel. So much performance is gleaned from the moments of silence that the film allows. It’s a slow burn at times because of it, but I wouldn’t say I was ever bored by it.

The supporting cast is, to be fair, incredible. Colman Domingo (Lincoln, TV’s Fear the Walking Dead) and Regina King (Ray, TV’s American Crime) shine as Tish’s parents, and the film is littered with minor performances from talented actors. The wonderful Brian Tyree Henry (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, TV’s Atlanta) has maybe ten minutes of screen time but the message and strength of his supporting character gives so much during that time.

The other major strength of the film besides performance and the gorgeous cinematography is the score. Every time the sweeping music came into play, I felt the hair on my arms stand up. Its simplicity and repetition make for a memorable, sweet, and at times foreboding piece of music.

If I had a flaw with the film, it would purely be that its ending is left slightly open-ended. We don’t get resolution on some of our plot threads, but my wife put it quite well. She says that it’s because our characters, even with some closure, still have uncertainty in where their lives are headed, and it’s a haunting way to end things. There’s some light for them indeed, but leaving things open just made me pine for more.

If Beale Street Could Talk is an excellent follow-up for director Barry Jenkins. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was nominated for or even wins Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards. It’s stacked with amazing performance work, stunning visuals and color choices, and a musical score that will stay with you long after leaving the theater. Take some time after Christmas to find a theater playing this one. You’ll be happy you did.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, click here.

 

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Rogue One Prequel Series Adds Stephen Schiff as Showrunner

Stephen Schiff, executive producer of FX’s The Americans, has been tapped as showrunner for the upcoming Disney+ Rogue One prequel series.

Not much of the series is currently known outside of the facts that it will be set before the events of the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and feature Diego Luna reprising his role from that film as Cassian Andor.

There is currently another series, The Mandalorian, being run by Iron Man director Jon Favreau. That series will be set after the events of Return of the Jedi.

For me, as someone who hasn’t seen The Americans, this news is still quite a good sign. Though I have no experience with the show, I have only heard amazing things coming from the hit FX series which recently wrapped its run.

As far as a Cassian Andor led series, I’m all for it. I found Rogue One to be quite enjoyable, but I can understand the criticism that its lead characters did not get as much development as would be desired. That’s why I like the idea of giving more time. I found Cassian to be an enjoyable character especially when I think about how he is introduced to us in the film. He’s been on some seriously hard times. I could see a series really fleshing that out nicely.

I’m hoping that showrunner Schiff can really bring out some political intrigue in the new series, and this move makes me more excited for the series.

So what do you think? Are you excited for a new Cassian Andor-led Star Wars series with Stephen Schiff as showrunner? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Box Office Report: Triple Threat Duking for #1, Flatliners is D.O.A.

Who can say for certain which film will come out on top this weekend. The contenders are:

-Doug Liman’s newest film American Made, starring Tom Cruise,

-Matthew Vaughn’s sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and

-Andy Muschietti’s It, based on the Stephen King novel.

While American Made is a newcomer to this weekend, it hasn’t been making the splash many thought it could. This could be due to the poor reception to The Mummy, which also starred Cruise. The shift in the film world around blockbuster stars no longer having the kind of pull they once could. Director Liman has been working over two decades but doesn’t have the household name approval despite acclaim for his more recent work like Edge of Tomorrow.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle opened to lukewarm reception last weekend with many saying it was a major step down for the franchise from the universally loved first installment.

It is currently in its fourth weekend but continues to be a strong contender. Domestically, It is the fifth highest-grossing film of 2017 (the highest-grossing R-rated film) and the nation is currently on a King Renaissance, so there is no stopping this juggernaut.

All three films have been heading for roughly $16.5 million, and I’ve seen both American Made and It and enjoyed both, so I’m curious to see which one will walk away the victor here, but it is quite clear that the sequel to Flatliners, aptly-named Flatliners, will have a very weak opening weekend. The film, starring Ellen Page and Diego Luna, is dying in cinemas. Currently sitting at a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, it isn’t surprising that the film is struggling considering the nonexistent marketing campaign for the film and the lack of press screenings. I mean, c’mon, even The Emoji Movie has defenders. Flatliners is currently trending to make $6 million this weekend.

What do you think? What film(s) are you seeing this weekend? Let me know/drop that comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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