In writer/director Ryan Coogler’s true-story drama Fruitvale Station, star-on-the-rise Michael B. Jordan gives an outstanding performance as a young man who yearns to find redemption and lead a better life for his future.
Fruitvale tells the tragic story of Oscar Grant III (played by Jordan)—a 22-year-old Bay-Area man with a troubled past. Years earlier, Grant had run-ins with the law. We see in flashbacks Oscar behind bars. In one instance, we see his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer), visiting him in jail. She sees that her son hasn’t changed his ways and can do nothing but give up on him. It’s a heartbreaking scene, to say the least.
In the present day, Oscar is a caring father to his young daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal). He’s still with his daughter’s mother, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), and he’s on much better terms with his mother. Oscar seems to have his life back on track—but he hasn’t quite let go of the irresponsible young man he once was. He lost his job at a grocer due to excessive tardiness, and now he’s on the verge of selling drugs again for money. From the looks of it, it seems as though Oscar won’t ever change.
Fruitvale chronicles the last day of 2008—Wanda’s birthday. It’s New Year’s Eve—a time for celebration and, for some, a time for change. New Year’s Eve 2008 ultimately becomes the day Oscar reaches an epiphany about his life and the man he wants to become for those around him. Jordan (who showed tremendous talent in TV’s Friday Night Lights), is a revelation here as Oscar. He fully takes on the role of a young man struggling within himself and trying so desperately to change his fate. Fruitvale is the film that will have Hollywood take notice of a young actor with a bright future ahead of him.
The rest of the cast is also terrific. Diaz is excellent as Oscar’s girlfriend who will stand by her man until the end, and Academy Award winner Spencer delivers another fine performance as a mother who just wants to see her son become a better man. Coogler’s direction and screenplay for the film are also praise-worthy in that he tells an emotionally absorbing story from beginning to end.
This being the true story of Oscar Grant, the unfortunate outcome of his fate on December 31, 2008 is unavoidable. Coogler may have named his film Fruitvale Station, but he doesn’t intend for the tragic events that happened there to be what Oscar would solely be remembered by. His intention for the film is for us to know and understand the man that met a regretful fate that day in 2008. And through Jordan’s award-worthy performance, Fruitvale Station became a devastatingly unforgettable film that will affect you and won’t let you go long after you’ve finished watching it. It’s no wonder this film was an absolute sensation at the Sundance Film Festival. Without a doubt, Fruitvale Station is a must-see and is one of the best films of the year.
5 out of 5 stars
About Fruitvale Station:
Based on the true story of Oscar Grant III, Fruitvale Station tells the story of a young man with a troubled past who reaches a crossroads in his life one tragic New Year’s Eve.