Winning both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival Closing Awards, Ryan Cooper’s Fruitvale has had a serious effect on viewers and proved a career-launching first feature from writer and director Ryan Coogler. Based on real-life muder of Oscar Grant, the film follows the 22-year old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, family, enemies, and strangers on the last day of 2008. The stunning debut "that’s the sort of material you might more readily except in be covered in a documentary" stars Chad Michael Murray, Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, and Kevin Durand—produced by Forrest Whitaker.
Last week, The Weinstein Company acquired distribution rights to the much-lauded film, and thus far, critics have been claiming:
Coogler stages the chaos with a breath-shortening combination of frenzy and ambiguity, with the latter providing enough legal wiggle room for the cop to eventually get off with a light sentence, furthering the sense of injustice. It’s an awful tale, fraught with political, social and moral weight symbolic of numerous contemporary ills, and one with an unshown ugly aftermath of violent protests that further sullied Oakland’s reputation. As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceeding. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Ryan Coogler’s confident debut feature, "Fruitvale," gets significant mileage from Michael B. Jordan’s star turn. Yet even if every word of Coogler’s account of the last day in Grant’s life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject. Best viewed as an ode to victim’s rights, "Fruitvale" forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing. (Variety)
Check out a first look from the film, with two clips featuring Spencer and Jordan, courtesy of Democracy Now. The video also includes an interview with Coogler and others as well proceeding the film segment.