Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92% (Critics) / 66% (Audience)
Directed By: Justin Simien
Written By: Justin Simien
Starring: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner and Teyonah Parris
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Synopsis: A social satire that follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where controversy breaks out over a popular but offensive black-face party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in acutely-not-post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world – (Source)
Tessa Thompson gives a star-making turn as the outwardly defiant spitfire Sam and it is her energy and spark that carries most of this film. I was also intrigued by a lot of what writer Justin Simien brings forth as subjects of debate in this film. He wrote a smart and brash script that he should definitely be proud of.
While the subject matter does cause reflection, I felt that Simien never really had the will to dive deeper than a surface level on the more controversial racial topics and as a result their is a restraint in this film that hampers so much of what could have been really good about it.
So many scenes devolved into self-righteous speechifying that I would find myself just zoning it out after a while. Having one character do this once or twice is fine but to make an entire movie full of it is just self-indulgent.
Final Verdict: An audacious first attempt by a neophyte director that harkens back to early Spike Lee but lacks some of the in your face bite amidst its social commentary that Lee is known for, as well as devolving into scene after scene of characters talking at one another instead of talking to one another. It does feature a winning turn from its leading lady and has me eager to see what comes next from this filmmaker.