Fruitvale Station Blu-ray Review
December 31, 2008. New Years Eve. The day will have two meanings for 22 year old Oscar Grant (Jordan). It’s his mother, Wanda’s, birthday. It’s also the last day of his life.
Thanks to the magic of technology, most notably cell phones with video cameras, Oscar’s death at the hands of a Bay Area Rapid Transit cop was recorded by several onlookers. It is this raw and real footage that opens the film. We are then taken back to that morning, where we are invited to spend the day with Oscar and spend a day in his shoes.
A powerful film with a star making performance by young Mr. Jordan, FRUITVALE STATION is a film that gives you the chance, if that is the right word, to judge Oscar and compare his life to yours. Yes, he’s lost his job and sells marijuana occasionally. He’s done a little hard time. But he’s also a loving father, a mostly devoted boyfriend and intent on making a better life for his family. And often he’s all of these things at the same time. When he goes to the grocery store to get items for his mother’s birthday party he goes out of the way to help a customer in the store. We also learn that he’s recently been fired, the boss tired of him coming to work late. We feel for him as he pleads for a second chance, then cringe when he threatens the manager that he’ll come back for him!
As the day goes on we are left to our own devices to see Oscar Grant not as a good guy or as a bad guy. He’s just a guy. As real as you or I. We’re disappointed with him when he talks of selling “tree.” But then we want to console him, just as he comforts a neighborhood dog who is struck by a car, when he’s down. Writer-director Ryan Coogler has crafted a film that, rather than TELL you the story, let’s you digest it at your own pace. As the night progresses and Oscar and his friends head to the BART station, you almost want to yell “get off the train” at the screen
As Oscar, Michael B. Jordan allows himself to get under the skin and into the soul of the man himself. Here is a man that has made his decision and guided his life toward the straight and narrow, only to be betrayed by a case of bad luck. Easygoing one moment, tough and menacing the next (most notably when flashbacks show him in San Quentin), Jordan gives a full, fleshed out performance. He is neither saint nor sinner and that is obvious from frame one. Oscar winner Spencer has some golden moments, especially towards the end of the film. Equally strong is Melonie Diaz, as Oscars girlfriend, Sophina. These are all real characters and the performers flesh them out completely.
If there is a message here it’s a very simple one. Oscar Grant could have been anyone. He could have been you. Or me.
FRUITVALE STATION BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in a 1.78.1 aspect ratio, the film has a rough quality to it. Director of Photography Rachel Morrison has talked in interviews about the decision to shoot the film in 16mm as opposed to 35 mm and the transfer does give the film a gritty look.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is much better, quality wise, than the video. Dialogue is clear and not overwhelmed by the musical score.
Fruitvale Station: The Story of Oscar Grant (21:28): A nice documentary that sadly focuses more on the cast and crew than the real Oscar Grant. We follow the film from the Sundance Film Festival to Cannes and also get a little political education as Oscar Grant is compared to Treyvon Martin.
Q&A with Filmmakers and Cast (28:01): After a screening of the film the cast, along with writer/director Ryan Coogler and Producer Forest Whitaker, answer questions from the event’s MC.