Saturday, November 03, 2007

Talk To Me: Grade A

Talk To Me (2007)
Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson, Martin Sheen. Director Kasi Lemmons.

Can this be the same Don Cheadle who starred in Hotel Rwanda? His range of talent is astonishing. In this historical docudrama he is Petey Greene, an ex-con who became a popular radio DJ in Washington DC in the mid 1960s. He “tells it like it is” to the black community, who respond with enthusiasm. His on-air announcement of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and his response to the riots afterward, are moving. The story of Petey’s life and career, which Ejiofor believes he is managing, is a sophisticated character study. Both of those lead actors give outstanding performances. Petey’s girlfriend, Henson, plays too broadly, but that’s probably the director’s fault. Petey’s signature line, “Wake up, goddammit!” is reminiscent of Robin Williams’ “Good Morning Vietnam.” The dialog is “right on” as we used to say, and the costumes “far out.” There were a few small anachronisms in the sets (mailboxes the wrong color) and the costumes might have been on the edge of parody, but maybe not; I don’t remember everything, and I was never black. Wonderful period music is used. The movie has a lot of very funny lines satirizing black jive but I wouldn’t call this a comedy. I think it is a serious snapshot in a long cultural dialog about race that is not over yet. But the bottom line is Cheadle. He completely nails this role.

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