Monday, July 29, 2013

Fruitvale Station: A Young Man's Tragic Last Stop

It may have been four years, but people in the Bay Area still remember what happened to Oscar Grant at the BART Fruitvale Station, when 2009 was just two hours old.

A fight broke out in one of the trains, and Oscar and some of his friends were told by police to leave. This is what happened next, as shown by KTVU news:

This led to riots, controversy, and a major shakeup in the BART police force. The scars of that shooting still exist to this day, and may have been ripped open after the George Zimmerman trial

That footage is also the first scene of  Fruitvale Station, a dramatization of Oscar's final day.
He's not perfect, but he's trying to do right by his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and his mom Wanda (Octavia Spenser). His girl reminds him how he cheated on her, and wonders if he'll do it again. He hasn't told them he lost his job at a local store, while he may consider drug dealing to make ends meet.

Yet Michael B. Jordan shows Oscar as a man who wants to do better, and hopefully be better. The
best example is a scene at the store where he used to work. He helps a woman who needs some advice on the best fish to fry for New Year's Eve, but later begs the store manager to re-hire him. This shows Oscar as caring, but also desperate,  and Jordan plays it beautifully.

If it was any other movie, it could have been about a young man trying to move forward, but could be likely to lose progress at any moment. However,  there are omens that predict his fate. While he ponders his next move, we see that he spent another New Years Eve in San Quentin. His mom visits her, and she notices the black eye. What happens there also winds up to be an omen. Octavia Spenser is also great as Wanda, a mom who knows her son should know better. She goes from being disappointed to having hope in him, then wishing to hold him just one more time after he's shot.

The movie also does a great job recreating the moments before and after the shooting. You see Oscar trying to hold it together, but when emotions between him, his friends and the police get out of hand, and that fatal shot is fired, you see the bloody face of a man whose future is slowly fading away. You also see the face of the cop who shot Oscar, stunned over what he had done. He claimed in his trial he had mistaken his gun for a taser, and seeing his response may have been proof.

It may be inevitable that someone will make a movie about George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin. The producers may write a story that shows both sides of both men It would show that fateful meeting yet leave it ambiguous about what really happened. That way, the viewer would decide whether Zimmerman was really guilty, or if it was partially Martin's fault. Such a movie is likely to be made, but it won't measure up to this film.

Fruitvale Station is a compelling drama about a tragedy that shouldn't have happened. When you see Oscar draw his last breath, you wonder, as his family and friends wonder, what could have been. To this day, they still wonder.

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