Fruitvale Station

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Fruitvale Station Movie Poster Image
Powerful, mature drama based on tragic-real life shooting.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
This movie aims to put a human face on a brutal victim of violence and inspire both empathy and tolerance. The movie seems to say that each person has a complex inner life, despite our quick judgments, pro or con.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Oscar is human. He has his troubles (he's been to prison, worked as a drug dealer, and cheats on his girlfriend), but he's also shown helping people and thinking of others. These positive vibes even rub off on others in some scenes. On the other hand, the movie doesn't reserve the same treatment for the cops. We don't know who they are, other than evil and racist.
Life-altering violence based on real events, starting with actual footage of the BART shooting on January 1, 2009. The climax of the movie re-creates this event, with much shouting, rage, and panic. Blood is shown. Hospital scenes are shown, with some blood. The prelude to the shooting is a near-fight on a BART train, with pushing and threats. There's also a flashback to Oscar in prison, where another inmate picks a fight with him. A dog is hit by a car (off screen) and is shown (from a distance) dead and bleeding in the street.
No nudity, but there are some sexual situations and innuendo. Oscar is seen kissing and touching his girlfriend in familiar ways. Later, he sends a text to another partner (an affair), looking for a "hook up" that never happens. Oscar is seen during a strip search in prison (he's naked, but nothing sensitive is shown). Opposite- and same-sex couples kiss on New Year's Eve.
Language is very strong and includes the "N" word, plus "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "bitch," "ass," "hell" (or, rather, "hella"), "oh my God," and "piss."
Actual BART trains are used in the film. Chuck E. Cheese is mentioned in passing.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character is a drug dealer, though he spends the movie trying to go straight. When he loses his legitimate job in a grocery store, he picks up a huge bag of pot to sell. There's some various drug dealing-type activity and slang (such as "selling trees" and "blowing trees"). Later, he changes his mind and dumps it in the bay. He's shown smoking a brown cigarette in an early scene, though it's not clear whether it's pot or tobacco. Some smoking and drinking is shown during the New Year's Eve sequence.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fruitvale Station is a drama based on the true story of a controversial shooting that happened on New Year's Day 2009; the movie takes place over the 24 hours leading up to the incident. Violence is an issue during the shooting sequence; the actual footage is shown, as well as the fictional re-creation. And language is very strong, with many uses of the "N" word, "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." There's some kissing and sensuality and some drinking and smoking. The main character, Oscar Grant, is depicted as a complex person. He's a drug dealer who picks up a huge bag of pot to sell, but he later decides not to go through with it. He has a history of cheating on his girlfriend, but he's also presented as a good person who loves his family and is trying hard to straighten out. The movie is highly acclaimed, picking up major awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bynroy8143 February 24, 2021

Naleighna Royall the best

i think this is what we need to bring done police brutality and we need a riot
Teen, 13 years old Written byAteerah December 18, 2020

I cried for hours

I love this movie and I actually turned 12 4 days ago Im not 13. I watched this when I was 9 and watched it again about 2 weeks ago. I think it is for kids age... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's New Year's Eve 2008, and Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) has a busy day. He has to try to get his grocery store job back, because if he can't, he'll be forced to go back to dealing pot in order to pay the rent. His girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz), has found out that Oscar's having an affair, so he doesn't want to tell her about the job situation on top of it. On a happier note, it's his mom's birthday, and he needs to buy fish so that she can make her famous gumbo for the party. After the festivities, Oscar and Sophina kiss their daughter goodnight and head into San Francisco for the year-end celebrations. To avoid traffic, they decide to take the BART train. Unfortunately, this decision leads to tragedy, as Oscar's past comes back to haunt him.

Is it any good?

FRUITVALE STATION is the debut feature from Oakland filmmaker Ryan Coogler, and it's a quietly powerful achievement of surprising beauty and subtlety. Reportedly, Coogler thoroughly researched the day's events, up to and including the crucial incident: a cop's shooting of an unarmed, subdued man in the back. The movie shows just enough of the cops to make them monstrous but not enough to understand their feelings or motivations. This approach stays true to the impact of the real-life footage but has also raised some controversy. 
But up until the film's emotionally powerful, incendiary ending, Coogler presents his film as a nuanced and carefully balanced character study filled with small, poetic moments. In this story, Oscar makes both good and bad decisions; he gets angry, and he expresses love. Coogler's handling of the actors is exemplary, especially Jordan as Oscar and Octavia Spencer as his mom (she won an Oscar for The Help and certainly deserves another).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Fruitvale Station's violence. How is it different from the violence in other movies? Does the fact that the movie is based on a true story affect the impact of the violence?
  • Oscar is troubled and makes some mistakes. Does this make you like him any less? Why or why not? How do you feel about the movie's portrayal of the cops? Did you hate them? Feel sorry for them? Are they stereotypes? Do they deserve to have their story told?
  • How do you feel about the inclusion of the footage of the real incident? Why is this footage so powerful? How did you react to it?
  • What's the difference between "based on a true story" and an actual true story? Does it matter whether everything in this movie actually happened? How could you find out which parts may have been fictionalized?

Movie details

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