Michael B. Jordan gives a “Major Performance,” Edelstein says
Fruitvale Station is about to land with major critics. The first one out of the gate, New York Mag’s David Edelstein, who writes:
Jordan gives a major performance. His Oscar is not a wholly admirable man. His motor runs fast; he acts before he thinks; he’s quick to get riled up. But he’s trying to grow up. He reaches out to strangers. He’s a dutiful son to an attentive (but easily fed up) mother (Octavia Spencer). He wins you over in an early scene: While driving, he calls his mom, who asks if he’s talking on a headset. He says yes—a lie. Then he pulls over and slides the phone over his ear into his tight cap.
Oscar inhabits a very public culture, an interdependent village of friends and family. What Coogler—in his first film—does harrowingly well is show how that village is full of dangerous corners, how every encounter has the potential to get ugly fast. It’s no one in particular’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault. Police are unnervingly ubiquitous. Watching Fruitvale Station, I thought of the “stop and frisk” policy of Mayor Bloomberg, who—no matter what you think of him—has an empathy gap. He doesn’t understand the cumulative effect of the presumption of guilt on people who already feel disenfranchised.
The end is as terrible as you fear—but it always feels preventable, not inevitable. Here are African-American men who’ve endured enough mistreatment and cops who rather than defuse a tense situation seem eager to escalate it. No one will let anything go. And so it goes. Fruitvale Station will rock your world—and, if the life of Oscar Grant means anything, compel you to work to change it.