When Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture the outrage was palpable; several decades after Driving Miss Daisy won an Oscar we were given another good (but not great) film about a white savior learning not to be racist from a black man. It didn’t matter that Mahershala Ali won a well-deserved Oscar or that the film’s relationship to the truth wasn’t as strong as it could be or that the film wasn’t the sort of instant classic one expects an Oscar winner to be (but really hasn’t been the past decade or so).
In a year where Black Panther set box office records it felt like a step back to see a film from another era like Green Book take Best Picture when a perfectly acceptable (and exceptionally good) film like If Beale Street Could Talk was right there to be the middle ground from Green Book and Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman.
It was also the best of the three, too, but not enough people saw Beale Street to be able to make that argument come Oscar night.
The film revolves around the unexpected pregnancy of Tish (KiKi Layne) and her fiancé Fonny (Stephan James). He’s in jail for a crime he didn’t commit in 1970s Harlem and the two have to find a way to make their love work despite the world not giving them enough to help out. The film follows them as their families deal with this issue in an era well before out of wedlock pregnancy was significantly more prevalent.
Regina King plays Tish’s mother in a role that won her an Oscar and might’ve been the best supporting performance from an actress in the last decade, as well.
Based off the novel of the same name, the best comparison for this would be Woody Allen’s Manhattan. What that film is to great dialogue this film is for amazing visuals. James Baldwin, already with an Oscar under his belt for Moonlight takes a similar approach to this film and brings Harlem in the ‘70s into an extraordinary visual feast.
A handful of extras but nothing extraordinary.
20th Century Fox presents If Beale Street Could Talk. Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins, based on the novel by James Baldwin. Starring Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Toyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Diego Luna, Finn Wittrock, Emily Rios. Run Time: 119 minutes Rated R. Released on DVD: 3.26.19
Tags: Colman Domingo, Diego Luna, Emily Rios, Finn Wittrock, If Beale Street Could Talk, Kiki Layne, Michael Beach, Regina King, Stephan James, Toyonah Parris