By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
This year, between The Hate U Give, Blindspotting, and the upcoming Monsters and Men, police violence has made it into popular culture (and it’s far from a bad thing, although the film’s current 5.9 IMDB rating vs it’s 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating tells a different story of how ready some dank corners of society are to discuss this).
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives two lives- a prep schoolgirl by weekday where she’s one of the few black people her white and privileged classmates interact with, and the resident of a much less well-off and nearly entirely black neighborhood the rest of the week. When getting a ride home from a party with a childhood friend, Starr is shocked to witness him shot down by a police officer during a seemingly unnecessary traffic stop. Suddenly, both of her worlds are torn a part and put in conflict, and she has choices she needs to make.
Late screenwriter Audrey Wells, who tragically passed away just a month ago, did a great job of adapting the also quite acclaimed Young Adult novel into an admirably adult and complex screenplay. It’s clear she put her all into crafting fully-formed characters with human motivations. One standout is Starr’s police officer uncle, played by Common (although how he can afford that house on a police officer’s salary is a question for another time. Seriously, that might be Common’s actual house). His explanation of a police officer’s view of a pullover and how reactions may differ depending on who has been pulled over is one of the more difficult but thought-provoking breakdowns of the police mindset I’ve seen in any medium.
Make no mistake, though- this is Starr’s, and Amandla Stenberg’s, movie. Stenberg is, *ahem*, a Starr in the making, asked to carry the film and all of its emotions and growth and steps up to and above expectations. George Tillman, Jr. directs with polish and energy as well, and all of the supporting acting is truly excellent all around, but Stenberg is the glue that holds the film together.
The Hate U Give flies by even though it’s 132 minutes long- it moves organically and engagingly and you never think to check your watch, but beyond how well crafted and even entertaining- a weird but accurate word to use- the film is, the sociopolitical relevance is even more impactful. It’s about time Hollywood noticed teens these days can handle more than vaguely metaphorical dystopias.
This is still a young adult movie, meaning that besides the inevitable feints towards melodrama, some overexplaining voiceover and too tidy of plot arc resolutions (to say nothing of the slightly contrived climax) are par for the course. Yes, this shop does indeed offer giftwrapping services.
The white boyfriend’s “I don’t see color” speech ending in any other way than Starr kicking him to the curb like her not so closeted racist former friend is frankly unbelievable. That they turn it into a romantic positive in a single scene is mindblowing- need a hell of a lot more charisma to sell that one, Archie.
Yes, we live in a world where sexy Archie is a bona fide sensation.
The Hate U Give may have YA roots, but is a compelling, complex dramatization of police violence and race in America all the same.
The Hate U Give (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every cluelessly racist thing uttered by a private school student
Take a Drink: whenever tension is resolved by wholesome group laughter
Take a Drink: for TV coverage of events in the film
Take a Drink: whenever Anthony Mackie glares menacingly
Do a Shot: every time the title is explained