‘Beyond the Lights’



Let’s start with something I retweeted this morning…

Yes…yes it is.

Beyond the Lights brings Gina Prince-Bythewood back to the writer/director chair and it was well worth the wait in my opinion.  The pitch is a classic Hollywood story: a star is surrounded by yes men and falls for the one ‘real’ person who finds their way into their circle.  It’s the execution of the story and the performances make Beyond one of the better black films in recent memory.  The soundtrack is pitch perfect, it’s my favorite Minnie Driver performance in a REALLY long time, there’s some nice cameos that add to the ‘realism’ of the film (Roland Martin, the BET Awards, your boy Don Lemon).  On an ‘issue’ level, the film makes a really clear statement about how young and ruthlessly we sexualize girls and profit from it. (I don’t see the Machine changing that, but that doesn’t make it right.)

Now before I say this next part…we all know the Prince of Gotham has an established weakness for beautiful women with exotic/English accents right?  That’s public record, yes?  OK…

Hollywood, you dropped the ball once when you wouldn’t back this film because Gugu Mbatha-Raw wasn’t a big enough name.  What’s done is done though, moving forward, you have to give this young lady more ‘shots’.

You know how Sanaa was ‘there’ before Love and Basketball but Gina built a whole movie around her, and then we had ‘Sanaa Lathan, leading lady’?  I think if she wants that type of career, Gugu can do that and more.  She’s fine, yeah, I covered that.  But the girl can act.  My favorite parts of Beyond aren’t the Hollywood/music stuff, but these intimate scenes she has with Nate Parker and Minnie where she gets to be vulnerable and defiant, and over the course of the film you watch that character grow.  Minor spoiler alert, but there’s this whole symbolic subtext that’s established in the very first scene with black hair.  I’ll let you see it.

And I kind of thought that was her, but I stayed through the credits to be absolutely sure: it’s really Gugu singing Blackbird and a few of the other songs you hear.  I went into my queue and moved Belle back to the top of the list when I got home so I can get a better grasp of her range, but off one film?  Man…

So yeah, see this film.  It has been a good year for black filmmakers.  And I don’t believe I’ve seen the ‘home run swing’ yet…


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