By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
One-night Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are on a Tinder date and it seems to be going kind of awkwardly, like most Tinder dates. While Slim is driving taking Queen home they are pulled over. The cop says Slim didn’t signal a turn and was swerving. The traffic stop gradually gets out of hand and Queen gets out of the car. The cop becomes aggravated and pulls his gun on Slim while the cop is searching his car. When Slim asks him to hurry up because it’s cold, the cop draws his gun and when Queen says out loud that she’s reaching for her cell phone he shoots at her and Slim tackles the cop and shoots the cop with the cop’s own gun. Then they go on the run with the plan to eventually get to Cuba.
This film is sharply written by Lena Waithe and expertly directed by Melina Matsoukas. It’s crazy that this is Melina’s first feature film she has directed. She has made tons of music videos and her talent for merging music and visuals together is evident in this film. This film is gorgeous to look at and its undercurrent of soul music and a jazz score makes this a gorgeous film. I cannot wait to see Melina’s next film. Lena’s script is smart and visceral. This film is as unflinching as it should be; with the subject matter in today’s climate, we needed this film and we needed it to be as real as it is.
One of my favorite things about this script is how real everything feels. In most films about racial issues the antagonists are so bad they’re on a cartoonish level. That is my problem with most Spike Lee movies; they are very well-made films but he can’t help himself from making his antagonists over-the-top cartoon characters. In this film all of the characters are gray and complex just like real humans. To get an honest conversation going about police officers killing innocent civilians, we needed a movie that had honest characters that are grounded in reality. Queen and Slim are also not made out to be perfect people. It makes everything more devastating feeling that these could’ve been real people you knew.
What also helped making Queen and Slim feel like real, complex people were the performances behind the characters. Jodie Turner-Smith is brilliant as Queen, and I can only assume this will be a breakout role for Jodie. She brings a level of intelligence and honesty. Kaluuya is equally brilliant as Slim. He’s quickly becoming the actor who I will run and watch whatever it is he’s in. His arc is believable because it feels like Slim is dealing with everything the way most of us would. Since Queen is an attorney, she never really had a shaky moment. Always cool and calm, she seemed to know what to do. Slim is just a guy who works at Costco and dealt with the situation much like we would.
Queen & Slim is a visceral, honest, and beautiful film. It’s a great first feature by Melina Matsoukas and I cannot wait to see what she does next. It’s packed with great performances. Also, I hope this film can start a dialogue about this issue and maybe one day this will end. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Queen & Slim (2019) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time Queen & Slim are recognized.
Do a Shot: every time they’re asked if they’re hungry.
Take a Drink: every time they’re sitting in their car stopped.
Take a Drink: every time someone gets a gun drawn on them.