Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Talk To Me - Movie Review

Let's just get this right out first. Talk To Me will NEVER be number one in the box office. Not because the movie isn't good. Because it opens on July 13th 2007. The same day Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix opens. Good luck Don Cheadle. You may be the first muggle destroyed in the battle against Voldemort.

That being said, the movie Talk To Me was never meant as a blockbuster, and it is a quiet reprieve of a little biopic directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou) about the rise of radio DJ Petey Greene. From his prison days to WOL Radio 1450AM in Washington DC, where Petey meets his future manager and radio producer Dewey Hughes who gives the ex-con his first chance. Petey is the prolific black miscreant host that speaks his mind and tells it like it is, and finds fame and glory for being the people's DJ and talking it straight up. Petey Greene's rise continues right when Martin Luther King Jr. gets assisinated and continues on further where he finally gets an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and his on television show, but the movie really follows Dewey and Peteys relationship as manager and star.

While the traditional underdog-does-good story runs a tad slow and runs slightly too long, the movie is saved by great performances throughout the cast, led by producer Don Cheadle as Petey Greene in full 60's gear and hair (in a role that basically screams "I want an Oscar"). Taraji P. Henson (so great in Hustle & Flow, so great here) plays Greene's long suffering girlfriend that sparks with sass and gives the film all its energy, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (always good in any role he does) as producer/manager Dewey Hughes. Plus a small role for Martin Sheen as the head of the radio station WOL who, of course, is against the idea of Petey as a DJ from the start but grows to appreciate his talents. Cedric the Entertainer also makes an understated performance as a rival DJ (I didn't even KNOW "Cedric the Entertainer" and "understated" could possibly be in the same sentence?!).

It would have been interesting if the film focused more on Greene's later activism and I'm not sure why they minimized it, since that seemed to be the most interesting part, and not his trajectory to stardom/flameout as we've seen in every other Hollywood biopic. So the movie is engaging for about the first 2/3rds of the movie and then peters out in the end but it's a good film that should have had slightly bigger ambitions (I guess much like its lead character). Terrific acting and some nice production design and art work of 60's D.C. buoy the film from tedious biopic history-lesson territory.

Talk To Me = B or 7.5/10

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