"Fruitvale Station" isn't the first time moviegoers have known the end of the movie while watching the beginning of the film. Any movie based on a true story does the same thing, but writer/director Ryan Coogler chose to show footage of the real Oscar Grant in 2009 as soon as the film started. Just in case you forgot about the 22-year-old man who was shot on the BART platform on New Year's Day by a Bay Area cop, there's the reminder.
Michael B. Jordan has a reputation for taking on quality projects. Even with his role as Wallace in "The Wire," viewers had no choice but to look past the stereotypical young, black man growing up in a society that treats drugs and violence like the norm instead of the exception. Jordan humanized Wallace. Same goes for Jordan's role as Grant.
In interviews, the cast has repeatedly confirmed that the movie didn't make Grant into a saint. There weren't a bunch of hidden qualities about Grant that were buried and made him look like a complete victim his whole life. But what the film did was show how he matured and started to make better choices. No more prison time. No more selling drugs. Grant was trying to get his grocery store job back and have an honest living.
And even though Jordan doesn't have any children, he brought a lot of life and love to the father-daughter relationship that Grant had in real life with his daughter Tatiana (played by Ariana Neal). Viewers also got to see the charming side of Grant's personality with his girlfriend Sophina (played by Melonie Diaz), as well as grocery store customers, such as Katie (played by Ahna O'Reilly).
There's valid debate about whether former-office Johannes Mehserle (the one who killed Grant) really was reaching for a stun gun. (Note: Mehserle was sentenced to two years in prison but released after 11 months.)
There's even more debate about whether a police officer punched him in the face or was it just an open hand to pull Grant's head. Then there's petty criticism about no proof that Grant saved a dog in real life, as he did in the film. Forbes even gripes about whether there really was a party on the train before the fight, as if dancing on the train is the climactic scene of the entire film.
Vanity comes to the bizarre conclusion that "Fruitvale Station" gives a "relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject," although viewers can clearly see Grant has many flaws. In the film, he physically fought with police while in prison, as well as fighting back against a guy for challenging him on the train that fatal night. In the movie, Jordan plays the role of Grant threatening his boss after finding out he wasn't going to be re-hired. But even then the rationale for firing him was for being late, not for his past criminal convictions. As with every movie, and every human being, there are good days, bad days and not even "bad" guys (minus sociopaths) have bad days all of the time.
Logically it makes no sense to paint Grant as a raving lunatic through the entire film primarily because first-hand accounts from his own family showcase that he was not. And most of the film was him around his family, friends and associates. His family and girlfriend even did a tribute about him. And the live videos filmed and placed all over YouTube are the main ammunition for why the film was able to be made, his final day on New Year's Eve to New Year's Day. His arrest on the platform was for that day in 2009. His murder wasn't hearsay. There were eyewitnesses everywhere on the BART train.
The film is a great discussion piece about racial profiling, poverty, fatherhood, young romantic relationships, mother-son relationships, the prison system and crime. "Fruitvale Station" pushes all of these topics front and center through Grant's life. While viewers are still open to make their own decisions about the real-life end results, making this film was definitely worth it.
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