If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.
Starring: KiKi Layne • Stephan James • Regina King • Brian Tyree Henry • Dave Franco
TW: Sexual Assault
Honestly, if Beale Street could talk I don’t think it would because it would be too busy snoozing in the middle row of the theater, next to a teenage boy cracking his knuckles.
This movie is sooooooo boring. Aggressively boring in fact and I couldn’t wait for it to end. With a run time of almost 2 hours, I felt every single minute. Luckily my viewing partner was on the same page so I didn’t feel quite so bad when I didn’t like it at all (not that that normally matters).
Are the critics and people who loved this so much talking about the same film? I am so disappointed. Barry Jenkins is, of course, the director behind 2016’s masterpiece Moonlight so to say I went it with high hopes is an understatement. I even packed a wad of tissues expecting to sniffle my way through.
Well, I didn’t tear up once and that, my friends, is a bad sign. I can’t sit through an episode of Hollyoaks without bawling but as the end credits played, I was dry eyed with my heart of stone firmly intact.
I suppose I should go into the things I did like, which will be easy because it’s a short list featuring just two words: Regina King. Thank God for her because without I probably would have walked out. If I’m being extra generous, the story-line – of a black man falsely accused of sexual assault – is also interesting in its own right. Had this focused more on the crime element of the story, I think I would have been way more engaged. There’s a segment in which Sharon Rivers (Tish’s mum) travels to South America to speak to the victim which is very good.
I can’t say this isn’t an important movie, it’s the kind of movie I want to see and it has a lot to say about society – and similar neighbourhoods and black communities across the US. It makes you think about all the innocent men who go to their death just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – and only because of the colour of their skin. It’s sickening and this is just one story in a pool of thousands.
I just wish it was better. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, it focuses on the love between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood sweethearts with their whole lives ahead of them. When Fonny is wrongly accused of a brutal sexual assault, Tish and their families are forced to do everything they can to prove his innocence. Which is made all the more vital when Tish discovers she’s pregnant with Fonny’s baby.
The film takes us back and forth on the timeline of their relationship, giving us a glimpse of two kids at play in the tub together – to the conception of their adult relationship (then their baby) – to present day – and right back again. That’s not hard to follow and I like how the film looks, I suppose. Some of the lighting is gorgeous and the soundtrack is nice too.
No shade to any of the performances either. In addition to the skill of Ms King, newcomer Layne does okay. Tish just isn’t that exciting and there are times she irritates me with her doe-eyed innocence. Tish’s fiery sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) is great too.
Stephan James’ Fonny isn’t a character I particularly care for. There are times he takes his frustrations out on Tish and although I get what they represent, I didn’t like it. And there’s a lot of meaningful eye contact which I could do without. Talking of which – the extended ‘cherry popping’ scene was unnecessary and a little awkward.
So you could say this was not a hit with me at all. I don’t regret seeing it but I have no emotional attachment to the central characters at all. I’m not surprised it didn’t appear as a Best Picture nominee this year, although Regina King has been rightly recognised for Supporting Actress.
⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐