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Parents' Guide to

On the Come Up

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Book-based drama about race, art, identity has gun violence.

Movie PG-13 2022 115 minutes
On the Come Up Movie Poster

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This good if not great adaptation of Angie Thomas' sophomore novel features a couple of standout performances. But it lacks the impact of The Hate U Give, which was also based on a Thomas novel. In the On the Come Up book, there was time to draw out the various ways in which Bri's life is in flux: her mother, her incident with the security officers, her sense of being targeted, her desire to be a famous rapper, her continuing grief over the loss of her father and a stable home, etc. But despite its nearly two-hour runtime, the movie glosses over some of those storylines and, as a consequence, some characters (particularly Bri's friends and Aunt Pooh) don't feel as nuanced as they do on the page. Jay, who's played by director Lathan, does have an appropriately prominent role. And Gray is credible as Bri, who's motivated more by a need to protect than a desire for fame and fortune. Lathan captures Bri's confusion, anger, and creative delight, even if the execution falters a bit with some unnecessary inner monologue that doesn't always work.

The supporting cast is packed with talent, particularly the charming Michael Cooper Jr. and Miles Gutierrez-Riley as Malik and Sonny, Bri's best friends (and, in Malik's case, crush). Cooper gets a few big scenes and conversations, but Gutierrez-Riley is underused (surprising, since the screenplay already completely cut a couple of other friends who were present in the book). Because the book is so beloved, it's easy to be hard on the adaptation. And the film is definitely more formulaic than the book in its approach to Bri's character arc. But it's still very much worth seeing, particularly for teens, and serves as an important reminder that entertainers can be selling a persona to their fans -- and that the perception of some artists can be rooted in racist stereotypes. Beyond the messages about popular entertainment, this is a universal story about being yourself, loving your family, and staying true as an artist.

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