"More Heat Than Light?"
What You Need To Know:
FRUITVALE STATION is a one-day-in-the-life drama with political overtones. It’s about the African American man who was, according to a jury, accidentally shot dead by a San Francisco transit cop early New Year’s Day, 2009. The movie opens on 22-year-old Oscar Grant and his girlfriend, who have a 4-year-old daughter. The camera follows Oscar on New Year’s Eve before the shooting. Oscar tries to get an old job back but fails. Then, he thinks about selling drugs again, but changes his mind. He wants to change his life for the better. Later, Oscar and some young men get in trouble after one guy causes a fight on the subway. Tragedy results.
FRUITVALE STATION is an earnest production with some powerful moments and very good acting. There’s also two brief Christian prayers, and Oscar wants to improve his life. The filmmakers leave the reason for the transit officer’s shooting Oscar up in the air. Before Oscar is shot, however, they depict the transit police’s actions as heavy-handed. They also omit some facts. Finally, FRUITVALE STATION has more than 110 obscenities, which is very excessive.
(Pa, Ro, PC, B, CC, LLL, VV, S, N, A, DD, M) Light mixed worldview with some Romantic, politically correct elements, some moral elements, and some immoral elements, with some overt Christian content including two prayers to God the Father “in your Name”; 113 obscenities (including many “f” and “s” words), three light profanities, and a few “n” words, mostly said by blacks, but a white officer repeats one of them when a black man uses it to insult him; strong violence with some minimal blood includes fighting in two scenes, shot rings out, man’s bullet hole is shown but nothing extremely gruesome, blood in shooting victim’s mouth, small pool of blood on pavement, people angry at police, and it’s implied dog is hit by a car, and man takes limp dog still breathing but with blood around its mouth and places it on sidewalk instead of letting it lie in the street; implied fornication in one scene when man lifts up woman in underwear and takes her to a bed where he takes off his shirt, man lives with his girlfriend, and they have a daughter together, some references to sex and cheating in dialogue; upper male nudity and young woman in underwear in two scenes; alcohol use; smoking, man appears to smoke marijuana, man considers selling bad of pot but he dumps it in ocean, man gives small amount of drugs to friend that could be crack or a marijuana cigarette; and, lying, talk about previous apparent cheating, uncontrollable anger, mother asks adult son if he has a earpiece for his cellphone while he’s driving but he lies and sticks cellphone under his cap to hold it against his ear, car hits dog and speeds on without stopping.
FRUITVALE STATION is a one-day-in-the-life movie about the African American man who was, according to a jury, accidentally shot and killed by a San Francisco transit cop in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009. The movie has some powerful moments, but the premise is unclear, the movie has some apparent factual anomalies that may spread more heat than light, and there are more than 110 obscenities.
The movie begins with Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man living in the San Francisco-Oakland area, in bed with his girlfriend, Sophina, on New Year’s Eve, 2008. The couple has a young daughter, Tatiana, who’s four. Sophina complains about an incident with another woman, but Oscar assures her he only loves her. Sophina is satisfied for the moment by his answer, and she tells him she wants to go to the New Years fireworks later that night in San Francisco.
It’s supposed to be Oscar’s day off from a local fish market in Oakland, but he hasn’t told Sophina that he actually lost his job a couple weeks ago for being late. Oscar is hoping, however, that his boss will give him his job back later that day. He has to go to the fish market anyway to pick up some crabs for a birthday dinner for his mother.
Oscar gets to the fish market, but his boss refuses to give him back his job. So, since rent is due the next day, Oscar decides to sell a bag of pot he has on hand.
As the day progresses, the movie shows that Oscar recently got out of prison for selling drugs. Before he meets the friend who wants to buy the marijuana, Oscar reflects on one day at the prison when his mother visited him. A white convict tried to harass them, and Oscar started to fight him. As his mother walks out, the guards drag Oscar away. Thus, it becomes clear that Oscar has a temper. However, as Oscar reflects on that day, he decides to dump the dope in the ocean instead of sell it. He decides to turn over a new leaf and even come clean to his girlfriend about his job.
With his new resolve to be a better man, including a better father to his daughter, everything seems to be looking up for Oscar. At the birthday dinner for his mother, Oscar’s mom suggests that he and Sophina take the subway to San Francisco rather than drive their car. Things take a tragic turn when the white gangbanger from prison suddenly appears on the subway while Oscar, Sophina and their friends are returning home. A fight breaks out and ends, the transit police come to investigate, the police Oscar gets angry, the police try to restrain him further, and Oscar suddenly gets fatally shot.
FRUITVALE STATION is an earnest, sincere production with some powerful moments and very good acting. The actors who play Oscar, his girlfriend and his mother are particularly good, an absolute requirement for the movie’s young writer/director. There are even a couple prayers to God the Father “in Your name.” The premise of the movie is not completely clear, however. Mostly, the movie appears to be a day in the life of the victim of a tragedy. As such, it deals with Oscar Grant’s good points and his bad points, his hopes, his dreams, his struggles, his conflicts, and his family life. Though Oscar himself doesn’t seem to rely on God, his mother clearly does, especially when she leads a prayer for Oscar as Oscar lies dying in the hospital. This scene is one of the most powerful scenes of the year, but it doesn’t come until the end, so the movie ultimately seems to lack drama and focus. In fact, the movie wanders around too much, with no clear premise. It doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be a political movie, a movie about a family, a movie about one man, a movie about society, a redemptive movie about faith and hope, or what?
FRUITVALE STATION isn’t a strident diatribe condemning the transit police. In fact, the shooting does come across as unintentional, albeit really stupid and tragic. Also, the police officer seems clearly shocked that his gun went off and shot Oscar, as do two of his partners. That said, the movie depicts the police officers’ actions before the shooting as very heavy handed.
What the movie doesn’t convey, however, is the loud chaos of the crowd surrounding the police officers on the subway platform. Eyewitness testimony has shown, apparently, that the police officers were clearly afraid what the crowd might do as they arrested Oscar and several other people who may or may not have been involved in the earlier fight on a subway train. The movie also doesn’t show that the officers contend that, before Oscar was shot, they were trying to handcuff Oscar for moving around too much and resisting arrest, including resisting having handcuffs placed on him. Apparently, it is this testimony that partly influenced the jury not to convict the police shooter of murder or voluntary manslaughter, but only to convict him of involuntary manslaughter.
Ultimately, therefore, FRUITVALE STATION is likely to spread more heat than light. Especially in light of the recent politically charged, controversial case involving George Zimmerman, an Hispanic man accused of murdering a 17-year-old black teenager in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claims he shot the teenager in self-defense after the teenager started to reach for Zimmerman’s holstered gun, and even some top liberal legal scholars are saying that the prosecution didn’t prove their second-degree murder case against Zimmerman. Apparently, the prosecution in Oscar Grant’s death didn’t prove their case either, and the transit officer was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Although FRUITVALE STATION shows the police officers clearly upset and shocked that Oscar Grant got seriously shot (a wound that would turn out to be fatal), it leaves out too many facts appearing to exonerate (at least partially) the police officers’ actions. These facts also, perhaps, would explain why the police officer, who shot Oscar was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter, a clear case of an accidental, unintentional shooting. The problem is, too many of our political leaders, including the self-appointed ones, are fomenting racial conflict in the United States and around the world for their own agendas, usually radical ones that demonize and slander their opponents. The situation is so bad that it was just revealed the Attorney General, Eric Holder, who’s supposed to be politically neutral, sent Justice Department advisors to organize protests to promote charging George Zimmerman with second degree murder, or worse, instead of accidental or involuntary manslaughter.
In contrast to such agendas, Christianity preaches that in Christ there is no Jew nor Gentile, no distinction between races, and that all are equal before God (see Galatians 3:28). The Bible also teaches that everyone must be treated equal in a court of law, including the rich man. In fact, God specifically outlaws giving special treatment to poor people in court (see Exodus 23:3). Of course, that same Bible (see Proverbs 28:3) tells rulers not to “oppress” the poor, and that includes the police officer, who represents the law.
FRUITVALE STATION also has more than 110 obscenities, including many “f” words. In addition, there’s an implied sex scene between the hero and his live-in girlfriend.