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Westside Steve

If Beale Street could talk review

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If Beale Street could talk
R.                            119

So I have just seen the last of the five Golden Globe Best Picture drama category. No secret that the awards  this year are going to be politicized and racially charged, but I’m hoping that’s not the deciding factor for success as has been in the past. Of the five Golden Globes dramas no less than three are about racial strife. Two in five actually have the word black in the title. In case you thought the film IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK was shot in New Orleans or Memphis where there are actually Beale streets, it’s not; it’s in Harlem, New York City. An opening graphic explains that Beale Street (assuming a place of racial inequality) is ubiquitous, everywhere you find it. Something like that. 
It’s not nearly the glaring stereotypical racism as in BLACKKKLANSMAN or as silly as BLACK PANTHER nor is it uplifting and positive as GREEN BOOK which was nominated under the best picture comedy or musical section. Go figure. It is, however, far and away the most depressing and least entertaining of that bunch. 
Stephan James and Kiki Layne are Tish and Fonny a struggling clerk and aspiring sculptor who have been in love since childhood. Life is hard enough in 1970s Harlem but becomes even worse when Tish gets pregnant. Fonny's fundamentalist mother thanks this is Satan’s work but the rest of the family seems reasonably supportive. Even though the kids face an uphill struggle they find an acceptable apartment / studio and things are looking up until he’s accused of an obviously bogus charge of murder. Logistically it’s clear he could not have committed the crime but it’s his word against an evil white cop and he lands in prison facing execution. Not only is the mentally imbalanced victim coerced to perjure herself, she miraculously finds enough money to move to Puerto Rico making her unavailable to the jury or the authorities. Eventually the fathers of the bride and groom hijack a few truckloads of garments to get the money to send her mother to Puerto Rico to confront the supposed victim, but to no avail. As a matter of fact if you are expecting a happy ending you’re at the wrong place. The stereotypes aren’t quite as glaring as BLACKKKLANSMAN, but Beale Street still paints a bleak and depressing picture of society.  
While there certainly are some above-average performances star Kiki Layne’s isn’t one of them. Her acting is as one-dimensional and wooden as Kristen Stewart from the Twilight series. It’s basically an indictment of society posing as a movie.

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