Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Did 'Selma' Do at the Box Office on Its First Day in Release? How Did 'Selma' Do at the Box Office on Its First Day in Release? Marathon of New High-Definition Re-Mastering of 'The Wire' (Full Series) Starts Today on HBO Marathon of New High-Definition Re-Mastering of 'The Wire' (Full Series) Starts Today on HBO Egypt & Morocco Ban Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' for Historical Inaccuracies Egypt & Morocco Ban Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' for Historical Inaccuracies Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes Bill Duke's 'Dark Girls' Follow-up, 'Light Girls,' Gets a First Trailer & Release date (Heading to OWN) Bill Duke's 'Dark Girls' Follow-up, 'Light Girls,' Gets a First Trailer & Release date (Heading to OWN) Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Here Are the Top 10 Grossing "Black Films" of 2014... How Many of Them Did You See? Here Are the Top 10 Grossing "Black Films" of 2014... How Many of Them Did You See? Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for 'Arsenic and Old Lace' Playing the Brewster Sisters Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for 'Arsenic and Old Lace' Playing the Brewster Sisters Kickstart This: A Film About a 150 Year-Old Black Vampire With Suicidal Urges Kickstart This: A Film About a 150 Year-Old Black Vampire With Suicidal Urges Weekend B.O. Dec. 19-21 (Sony's Grateful for Small Blessings, while Paramount Blew it) Weekend B.O. Dec. 19-21 (Sony's Grateful for Small Blessings, while Paramount Blew it) Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Preview: Jessica Williams of 'The Daily Show' Makes Leading Lady Debut in 'Tap Shoes & Violins' Preview: Jessica Williams of 'The Daily Show' Makes Leading Lady Debut in 'Tap Shoes & Violins' First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) 7 More Slave-Themed Films For You To Look Forward To This Year, 2013 7 More Slave-Themed Films For You To Look Forward To This Year, 2013 Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

PAFF 2014 Review: Michael Beach Stars in Uneven, Seattle-based Dramedy, 'Scrapper'

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act February 13, 2014 at 3:01PM

There’s an interesting thing about audience. Filmmakers make movies with them in mind, but don’t have any control over their reaction. Such was the case in Wednesday night’s screening of Scrapper, at this year’s Pan African Film Festival.
0
Scrapper

There’s an interesting thing about audience. Filmmakers make movies with them in mind, but don’t have any control over their reaction. Such was the case in Wednesday night’s screening of Scrapper, at this year’s Pan African Film Festival. Written and directed by Brady Hall, the film stars Michael Beach, who’s probably most known for roles in Waiting to Exhale, Soul Food, and ER, where he loved and cheated on black women. These black women were the primary audience members at this screening of a film that saw him in a radically different form than these aforementioned works.

Set in Seattle, Scrapper tells the story of Hollis Wallace, a lonely man who makes his living collecting other people’s scrap metal, and caring for his ailing mother, who happens to be his only friend. His daily adventures collecting metal brings him into contact with an array of neurotic characters looking to dispose of their “junk.” One of them is a deranged white male neighbor (Aiden Gillen) involved in a BDSM/bondage activity with an 18-year old white girl named Swan (Anna Giles). When Hollis walks in on this scene while collecting the man’s metal, he feels immediate concern for the girl, and so begins a codependent relationship between them.

Under his guidance, the misdirected 18-year-old trades in her bondage activities for metal collection. At first a father figure, Hollis buys 500-thread count sheets for her to sleep in his home, but things get odd when the relationship takes on a sexual nature. This is one of the many places where tonal confusion disrupts the film, and a dark dramedy about two troubled people building a complex connection, becomes an uneven tale of a self-sacrificing black man repressing desire for an 18-year old girl, and getting beat up and spit on in the process. So, instead of being funny, an awkward, long sex scene between Hollis and Swan, where he stares off into space as she grinds into him, becomes a little off-putting, not because it’s interracial, but because it’s cheap. Character and relationship development are sacrificed for plot contrivance. Another very different film called Diego Star navigates this same intimate terrain, but in ways that don’t rely on unmotivated sex to bring people together.

And so we come back to the idea of audience. We don’t see many (if any) films about black scrap metal workers in Seattle, and especially ones that involve dark, wry humor. As America’s fourth largest export, scrap metal becomes a kind of metaphor for Wallace’s relationship with Swan- how damaged parts can in some way become good, or become even more damaged. Aside from some strong performances from Beach, these were elements of the narrative that I found interesting, and that I wish there were more of. There was more to learn about Hollis, beyond his supreme care for Swan, like how he devolved into a life of loneliness, but that wasn’t in the film.

During an intimate Q&A in which a handful of mostly black women- audience members gathered around Michael Beach, the moderator asked the group, including myself, how we felt about the film. I smiled as my mind swarmed with thoughts I didn’t want to voice, but one woman said: “It was okay. It wasn’t what I expected from you.” It was one of the most honest audience reactions I’ve ever heard at any screening, and one that stayed with me on my drive home from the theater. What was her expectation and why wasn’t it met? Does it matter? Michael Beach addressed his string of roles portraying the "cheating black husband," and how he liked this role because it was different. But, I wonder how different is it? We’re living in a time where race neutrality, diversity, and post-blackness have become safe slogans, and this film feels like it’s trying to ride that wave. But just like the scrap metal that it represents, it recycles the same ideas and images we’ve already seen. 

 

 

 

This article is related to: Michael Beach


Shadow & ActNewsletter