Thursday, November 20, 2014

Costume Change

I was underwhelmed by Beyond the Lights.  I think it was because the film was mostly focused on the point at which the protagonist Noni had already achieved mainstream success as a singer in the fickle music industry.  While the messages about the negative  trappings of fame and the misogyny in the record business rang true, I didn’t feel I had much vested in Noni as a fully-realized character.  Rather than experiencing a full character arc, we are treated to what is essentially a costume change where Noni goes from a Rihanna/Nicki Minaj mash-up to Corinne Bailey Rae.  I get the sentiment of an artist’s struggle to be true to herself, but I would have liked to have seen more of how Noni achieved her success and what made her tick.  As I walked out of the theater, I still had no idea why Noni was contemplating death just at the moment where her career is about to rocket forward. And while the romantic relationship between Noni and Kaz, the cop that saves Noni from herself, is sweet, it isn’t that dynamic. [And the subplot of Kaz’s dalliance with a career in politics is never fully fleshed out either.]  Also, for a movie about the music industry, the music in the film was decidedly lackluster. [The only musical bright spots were a few emotional renditions of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird,” a song which has great importance to Noni in the story]. Despite all the negativity that’s going on in this review, I will say that I really like the lead actors--Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni and Nate Parker as Kaz. Their acting abilities are far better than the material they were given in this film.  I also like the film’s director Gina Prince-Blythewood who, over the years, has managed to bring universal stories featuring black people to the big and small screen.  But, if you want to see the true force of her work, Love & Basketball is the far superior film and has a better soundtrack to boot.

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