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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive MessagesThis 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 ModelsOscar 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.
Violence & ScarinessLife-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.
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Sex, Romance & NudityNo 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.
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LanguageLanguage 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."
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Products & PurchasesActual BART trains are used in the film. Chuck E. Cheese is mentioned in passing.
Drinking, Drugs & SmokingThe 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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.