If Beale Street Could Talk – Less Lovey Dovey Please

Rating (3 out of 5)

Summary:  The quote from my wife sums up our experience, “We should have gone to see Bumblebee”. “If Beale Street Could Talk” (IBSCT) defines artsy fartsy. Umpteen scenes demonstrating the degree this couple loved each other and shots of people just staring into a camera tired me. When we finally got around to hearing the events and learning more about the characters, the film entertained.

If you like the artsy fartsy movies, go see IBSCT, you will probably love this film. If you don’t like artistic films at all, my rating might be a little high. I appreciate the artistry of the director, but IBSCT missed the mark for me.

Plot:  A young man Alonzo ‘Fonny‘ Hunt (Stephan James) is falsely accused of a crime and his pregnant girlfriend Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) attempts to prove his innocence. While this is the plot, the story is about their love triumphing through all of the events.

What I Liked: The movie opens strong. I enjoyed the narration by Tish, which she does throughout the film. She then visits Fonny in jail and informs him of her pregnancy. Then as she tells her mother about her pregnancy and then tells her father and sister. The penultimate session occurs when Tish informs Fonny’s family. I wish the rest of the movie had a similar tension and lively exchange as these opening scenes.

The sequence with Daniel Carty (Brian Tyree Henry) and Fonny enjoying a few beers and talking about the difficulties befalling a black man in a white man’s world also left an impression on me. While all the actors were excellent. Brian Tyree Henry continues to dazzle me in each role I see him. A moving recounting of his jail experience highlights his screen appearance.

What I Didn’t Like:  There were multiple times in the film where an image or sequence of images was supposed to communicate a tone or idea, but the musical score overpowered the image on screen. No score or muted score would have made the images more powerful.

I get it, they are in love. But the movie bombarded the audience with images about the extent of their love. The series of shots of Tish and Fonny staring at the camera or touching heads together wore on me and slowed the film.

The movie maintains a good pace when the story focuses on Fonny’s case and the characters involved. Regrettably, we only ever receive minute snippets. I wanted to know more details about his case but only got brief overviews as we followed their love story.