Friday, March 14, 2008

Talk to Me

"Talk to Me" (Kasi Lemmons, 2007) Yes, it's based on a true story but radio doesn't work like this movie says it does. Yes, there was a "Petey" Greene (see the real guy in the video below), but his rise from con to conscience of a city was a slow and tortured one, not the risky dare that the film portrays it to as, funny though the sequence is. There was a lot of work and a lot of public and community service that the movie doesn't acknowledge. Greene was already an activist when radio came along--not the other way around, and that does the real man a disservice. Don Cheadle is all bantam rooster as Ralph Waldo Greene and creates a wonderful portrait. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the station exec who takes a flier on the guy and ultimately uses him, very unthinkingly, to achieve his dreams. But the heart and soul of the film is Taraji P. Henson, whose "thankless girlfriend" part is blasted to smithereens in a performance of energy and sass. As good as everyone is, she brings the film to life whenever she's on-screen, and elevates it beyond an earnest film to an entertaining one. "Talk to Me" serves a purpose in presenting a forgotten story (and personality) in the civil rights struggle, but it plays so fast and so loose with the facts that one has to wonder who is being served. If it is Greene, then there's merit to be sure, but even his struggle is undercut by the film. The final word to the film-makers comes from The Man, himself. Be yourself.


John said...

I was disappointed in this film. I thought Cheadle failed to make the lead character charismatic enough. The pivotal scene of his show right after MLK's assassination should have been more powerful. I thought it fell just shy of the 3 star benchmark of biofilms like Walk the Line and Ray.

Yojimbo_5 said...

"3-star benchmark of biofilms" is damning with faint praise, though lately I have to agree that bio-films seem more concerned with skimming details of an entire life in a "Cliffsnotes" manner than delving into the significance of a person, your two examples being prime, as well as "Ali." A film like "Patton" can take a slice of a person's life and tell you more about that person than a lot of these encyclopedic things do.

John said...

I probably liked Ali more than you did... but I liked The Hurricane (another boxing film) even more, probably because it wasn't trying to tell the whole life story, but just a captivating slice of it.