Sunday, July 29, 2007

Talk To Me

I finally got to see what could easily be a major contender for the big prizes come awards season. Talk to Me is much more than a buddy film, although it's great in that capacity as well. Don Cheadle takes an extraordinary turn as legendary ex-con radio personality Petey Greene. And while on-screen love interest Teraji P. Henson and the second half of that buddy formula, Radio Exec Dewey Hughes played by the terrific Chiwetel Ojiofor, shine brilliantly on their own, they each give Cheadle enough room for the robust and colorful Petey to play. The always genius film score composer Terrence Blanchard does his thing, Kasi Lemmons of Eve's Bayou fame directs, and one of the writers of Brown Sugar co-penned the script.

I found the nation's connection with the death of MLK the most fascinating. Even Petey shows a crack in his tough guy veneer as he shares the news with his listeners, fighting back tears to say, "I'm tired of them taking our leaders." Everyone's reaction, even the radio station manager played by a stern Martin Sheen, is that of honest sorrow and pain. The King of Love Was Dead, and I don't think we identify with our leaders as strongly today. Perhaps we never will again.

Another poignant moment was when Petey appeared on the Tonight Show in what could have been his mainstream cross-over debut, only to walk off stage mid-monologue, refusing to do what he considered to be a song and dance number for the audience. It didn't take Greene as long as it took Dave Chapelle to realize that the point is to make people laugh, not to be laughed at.

The dynamic between the hard-edged Greene and his eloquent soft-spoken counterpart Hughes is a treasure. It's not hard to see that their dream and struggle are shared; to be seen in the eyes of others without the usual limitations our color and class-based society depends on. And in their own ways, both men succeed.

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