Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: Trailer for Miniseries Based on Life of Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (Coming This Fall) Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates 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) 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... AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey' AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey'

TIFF 2013 Reviews - Tommy Oliver's Debut '1982' Provides A Platform For Hill Harper To Shine

Shadow and Act By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act September 13, 2013 at 12:43PM

The biggest takeaway from 1982, writer-director Tommy Oliver’s debut feature film, is that Hill Harper should simply be getting more roles. With a decades-spanning career that includes recurring television parts on the now defunct CSI: NY and Soul Food, the 47-year-old actor and writer has had the fate of many a black actor in Hollywood: steady work, yes, but with few opportunities for roles that appropriately show off his movie star potential. With 1982, that potential is on full display as Harper plays Timothy, a man struggling to raise his young daughter Maya (wonderful newcomer Troi Zee) in the midst of his wife Shenae’s (Sharon Leal) growing drug habit.
10
1982

The biggest takeaway from 1982, writer-director Tommy Oliver’s debut feature film, is that Hill Harper should simply be getting more roles. With a decades-spanning career that includes recurring television parts on the now defunct CSI: NY and Soul Food, the 47-year-old actor and writer has had the fate of many a black actor in Hollywood: steady work, yes, but with few opportunities for roles that appropriately show off his movie star potential.

 

With 1982, that potential is on full display as Harper plays Timothy, a man struggling to raise his young daughter Maya (wonderful newcomer Troi Zee) in the midst of his wife Shenae’s (Sharon Leal) growing drug habit. 

Following in the tradition of movies like Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, the movie is a generally well crafted portrait of black life in 1980s Philadelphia, with a straightforward but engaging narrative that breaks down this general, hazy idea we may have of the “crack epidemic” into a deeply personal, human story.

Juxtaposed with grainy videos of the family during happier days, this is a bleak story that gets bleaker. 

When we first meet the main trio, there’s already a growing distance between Shenae and Timothy, which is only widened by the appearance of Wayne Brady as a (surprisingly believable) hardened dealer from Shenae’s past. Once the drugs get involved, Shenae disappears, and the focus is shifted to those left behind - hopeful Timothy and his precocious daughter Maya.

This isn’t necessarily a film about drugs, about how awful they are, about how they ruin lives and so on. That’s a given, and there isn’t much complexity here in terms of the pitfalls of drug abuse as Leal turns in a good but obvious portrayal of crack addiction. If one had to pinpoint the main theme of the movie, or at the very least its most engaging theme, it’s that of black fatherhood. We don’t often see dramatic stories of black fathers on screen, certainly not those concerning fathers and daughters, and here Oliver has excelled at presenting a loving and complex relationship between the two.

It’s in the moments playing opposite the very talented Troi Zee that Harper’s performance truly shines, and even more so in those quiet moments when the camera rests on him, alone on screen, saying nothing, conveying only with his expression the sense of hopelessness and bewilderment that comes from having to keep it together when everything is falling apart. Where the story itself dips here and there into moments of schmaltz and oversentamentality (the ending suffers the most from this), Harper’s choices are consistently real and consistently of the moment. 

Enough cannot be said for how refreshing it is to see characters like these relate, interact, and grow with one another on screen.


Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Slant Magazine. She co-hosts the weekly podcast Two Brown Girls, and runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.

This article is related to: Hill Harper, Tommy Oliver, Sharon Leal


Shadow & ActNewsletter