What parents need to know
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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.
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).
Families can talk 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?