Joe's working tonight so I decided to catch Fruitvale Station on the way home from work. Like last weekend when I saw Lee Daniels' The Butler, I went with the purpose of viewing a particular performance, but I've also just wanted to see this movie for a while and I'm worried about getting too far behind during awards season.
First reaction is that it's a better film than The Butler. Yes, it's a very different movie, but I responded very nicely to the documentary feel of it. Michael B. Jordan (Oscar Grant III) is every bit as good as his reviews. I happened to be impressed with Melanie Diaz as Oscar's girlfriend, but Octavia Spencer was definitely the standout supporting role.
The film itself is short (only 85 minutes), and she didn't really have much to do in the first 2/3 of the film. In the hospital scenes, however, she really shined. She so convincingly portrayed a mom trying to hold it together in the worst moment of her life, before breaking down with a sense of guilt for having suggested that Oscar take the train. What she intended as an act of concern resulted in her son being put in harm's way. I know nothing about Oscar Grant's real mother, but through Spencer's performance I believed her history as a mom who always tried to do right by her child. I highly recommend seeing this film.
It almost seems vulgar to pit Spencer and Oprah Winfrey's roles against each other in a comparison, considering the importance and poignancy of their films' subjects, but this is after all a candid blog. Spencer's was the less showy role, but with what she had "to do" in the film, without hesitation I would place her performance above Winfrey's. That said, having won last year for The Help, there isn't a cat in hell's chance of a repeat win for Octavia. So far this is Oprah's to lose.