Take a Drink: for customers
Take a Drink: for brand names
Take a Drink: every time Lucky complains about the kid
Take a Drink: whenever Levon and his wife fight
Do a Shot: whenever Lucky fucks up
Do a Shot: whenever the baby does something disgusting
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
At least for Prince of Broadway, it’s probably fortunate that movie rental places are pretty much defunct, because looking at its cover, I’d never rent it in a million years. It looks like one of the dozens of identical Tupac “documentaries” crowding for shelf space in my local, particularly ghetto Family Video, or a cheap local rap album.
Just look at this thing.
Prince of Broadway is far from that, though. Lucky (Prince Adu) is an African immigrant working as a shill for Levon (Karren Karagulian), a more established Lebanese immigrant who sells knockoff luxury clothing and accessories in the back of his shop. Lucky’s life is turned upside down, though, when a former one-night stand corners him and leaves him with who she claims is his young child.
To director Sean Baker, who pursues a level of cinéma vérité that we rarely see these days, and largely succeeds. He’s not content with just presenting a standard drama, but wants to convince us of its essential reality, and does so with a lo-fi, documentary style that leaves room for some beauty but not for any questions about the veracity of setting and situation.
This is a portrait of immigrants struggling in the margins of the American capitalist machine, hustling to make ends meet and squirreling away what they can for an uncertain future. This is no depressing kitchen sink drama, though. We’re thoroughly immersed in Lucky’s life, and Prince Adu makes him a genial, funny guy. His and Levon’s playfully contentious relationship, especially when things get tough, is heartwarming.
The actors are inexperienced, but imminently believable, including the impossibly cute and hilarious little kid, sometimes even painfully so, such as the case of Levon’s failing relationship with his wife or the highly nuanced plight of the mother of Lucky’s child. Is it really any worse for a mother to dump her child on his father than the other, all-too-common, way around?
After this scene, I can see why.
This docurealist approach can get a little too lo-fi at times, allowing actors to improvise lines that are just repetition of previous bitching and moaning. It’s certainly realistic, but it wears on you.
The happy ending of the film makes you feel good, but is a bit disingenuous. None of these characters’ problems went away, and most of them are much worse than in the beginning of the film. You’re still rooting for them, of course, but a peppy final montage isn’t getting them to the promised land.
You can only get arrested once, right?
Prince of Broadway is a nearly documentary-level story of immigrants living on the periphery of the American dream.