(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Tish is a pregnant woman dealing with her partner in jail and the struggles of family but ultimately realize families can still enjoy each other, even in prison.
Why It’s on the List:
Moonlight was not Barry Jenkins’s first film, but in many ways, it felt like one. This was not a sophomore effort, but when a director is following up a movie that won Best Picture, you’d think there’d be a ton of hype and a lot of follow-up. Other then Regina King and a couple other lesser nominations, this movie was basically ignored with a disappointing box office. Thankfully, the movie is easily accessible on streaming, and I think there has been some follow-up in that way.
I watched If Beale Street Could Talk with some dread because so many of these kinds of stories don’t have good endings. There is a temptation to tell Black stories and have them end up with someone dying or be really depressing. Alonzo Hunt ending up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit certainly isn’t positive, but he ends up still being able to spend time with his growing family. Then there’s Kiki Layne as Tish. She does not extended monologues like Brian Tyree Henry or showy dialogue like Regina King, but she’s the emotional center of the movie. Regardless of what I think of The Old Guard, it’s great to see her get a role like that in a potential film franchise. She’s excellent and deserved more awards than he got.
I like this movie a lot, even moreso than Moonlight. Both are on this list for good reason. They are both representative of a new set of voices in modern cinema. Jenkins, Coogler, and Peele have different sensibilities and work in different genres, but they all have the potential to positively influence what we see in the movie theater. It means more films with Black lead characters and wider perspectives. Jenkins may even be able to influence blockbuster filmmaking by directing a sequel to The Lion King.
*What happens to Victoria has been a source of a lot of discussion, and the #MeToo movement undoubtedly influenced how this part of the movie was portrayed.
MVP: Barry Jenkins won a bevy of awards for Moonlight, a great movie in its own right, but got almost nothing for what I would argue is an even better more confident film. Jenkins allows the audience to sympathize with Tish and Alonzo but doesn’t make the pain of their situation what the story is about. This is a love story, and the final scene is a family enjoying dinner together. There is a film to be made about systemic racism and the prison system, but I ultimately don’t see this as the story Jenkins wanted to tell. He strikes me as an emotional filmmaker, and anything he wants to say about a given situation will be told through the eyes of his characters and the emotions they feel.
Best Performance: Regina King is a queen, and I’ll no argument against this. She got a well deserved Oscar for her performance as Sharon Rivers. Even though this is a supporting role, she is heavily involved in two of the most powerful scenes. The first ends with her slapping Mrs. Hunt in the face while the other is her confronting Victoria in Puerto Rico about the accusations made about her son-in-law. She’s been a strong working actors for almost 30 years, and it’s only in the last couple years where I think she’s gotten the respect and the role she’s deserved.
Best Quote: “That child that’s coming, that’s your grandchild. I don’t understand you. It’s your grandchild. What difference does it make how it gets here. The child ain’t got nothin’ to do with that. Ain’t none of us got nothing to do with that!” – Sharon Rivers
Is there a sequel? No.