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Sundance Review: 'Fruitvale' is a Tearjerker

Thompson on Hollywood By Nora Chute | Thompson on Hollywood January 23, 2013 at 10:01PM

Ryan Coogler's true story "Fruitvale," which was backed by Sundance workshops and San Francisco Film Society filmmaker grants, couldn't be more timely, post-Newtown. Weinstein Co. acquired U.S. rights for $2.5 million soon after its Sundance debut.
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"Fruitvale Station"
The Weinstein Company "Fruitvale Station"

Early on January 1, 2009, 22-year-old Oscar Grant was shot in cold blood by a police officer at the Fruitvale Bart station in Oakland.  This brutality was captured by several cell phones and went on to galvanize the Bay Area's movement against urban violence. Rookie feature director Ryan Coogler's true story "Fruitvale," which was backed by Sundance workshops and San Francisco Film Society filmmaker grants, couldn't be more timely, post-Newtown. Weinstein Co. acquired U.S. rights for $2.5 million this week after its Sundance debut.

Coogler follows Grant (Michael B. Jordan of "The Wire" and "Friday Night Lights") on New Year's Eve in the hours before the shooting. We see a warm-hearted, loving father with a troubled past, moving blindly toward his inevitable and heartbreaking demise.

With understated and moving performances by Jordan and Octavia Spencer as Grant's mother, a film that could have hit the audience over the head with its message, instead draws us into the characters and their community, heightening the tragedy of the film's climax. Coogler grew up in the Bay Area and it's clear that the movie is enriched by his passion and understanding for the city's struggles. (Here's Indiewire's Coogler interview.) 

Prepare for a four-hankie movie. I didn't just cry during the film, I ugly cried (think Clare Danes), and judging by the sobs heard throughout the Monday afternoon press screening at the Holiday, I wasn't alone.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Reviews, Reviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.