Only 48 hours ago my wife and I belatedly watched the Oscar-winning Moonlight (a very odd choice for the best movie Oscar in my opinion), also written and Directed by Barry Jenkins. Today we saw Jenkins’ follow up. Across the two movies it’s notable that Jenkins doesn’t do ‘action’,as both are glacially paced. He also doesn’t do white actors. There are none at all in Moonlight and only 3 or 4 in Beale Street.
Visually, Beale Street is stunning. Jenkins is not left down by his cinematographer, James Paxton, who was also shot Moonlight. This has moments of jaw-dropping beauty, and in Kiki Layne and Stephen James he has two faces that make for simply beautiful close ups. In creating a love story Jenkins has certainly cast a couple that you truly believe are besotted with another, and that is both sweet and charming.
The movie also boasts am excellent soundtrack that has an epic central theme and a great deal of jazz to create mood where dialogue is in short supply.
But the movie is letdown by a pretty unengaging story, some very dense dialogue (it’s famine or feast in that respect) that is virtually indecipherable in places and central performances by the star struck lovers that are more lovely than moving.
The only performance that, for me, leapt off the screen was that of the mother of Kiki Layne, Regina King. It is nuanced, engaging and powerful and she deserves the recognition she is getting.
This is a year of huge black movies: Black Panther, BlackkKlansman, Green Book and this, all of which have been heavily nominated at The Oscars and BAFTAs. Of the four through it’s only Spike Lee’s terrific KKK movie that does it for me.
It’s slim pickings in the best movie department in 2019. Roma is a terrible bore, The Favourite is excellent, but is Lanthimos’ third best feature. For me the movie of the year is Cold War with The Favourite and A Star is Born close behind. Not this, that’s for sure.