Our Song Movie Review

Our Song never struck me as being the greatest title for a movie. It brings to mind some weepy tearjerker with an A-list diva/actress dying of terminal cancer while her nursemaid looks on, wiping away a brittle tear. Rest assured, this movie is far more substantial than the banal Hollywood weepie. Jim McKay's indie follow-up to Girls Town is another socially aware portrait of adolescence over a long, hot summer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Three close friends, Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez) and Jocelyn (Anna Simpson), listen to their favorite song on the radio ("Ooh, child... things are gonna get easier... we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun") and wonder what the future has in store. As they go through their routines of shoplifting, flirting, grabbing a slice, or making plans to catch a movie, their relationships inevitably change as young friendships always do. McKay is well serviced by superb cinematographer Jim Denault (Boys Don't Cry), who knows how to frame subtle moments with unobtrusive grace.

Clearly going for realism, McKay's script struggles to have it both ways. Blessed with young actors who give unforced, natural performances, they're stuck in after school special scenarios like a surprise pregnancy or selfishly turning your back on your friends. No matter how many hand-held shots are tossed in, there's too much emphasis on dramatic structure. A tragic third act suicide (predicted by the three kids in advance, but not appearing in the way you might expect) reveals the writer's hand, breaking the illusion that we're bearing witness to reality. This is a movie.

Also, a slap on the wrist for McKay and his editor Alex Hall for falling into that annoying Dancer in the Dark syndrome of presenting a dance/musical performance in distracting fragments. The three girls are part of the Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band, an amazing ensemble of urban kids who bring bravado and panache to their hardcore drum and brass magic. They don't just play music, they live it, blasting off with their bodies atwirl as they march down Flatbush Avenue. It's a glorious sight, but we're never given enough time to take it in.

The absence of master shots and infuriating cuts every four seconds never allow the viewer ample opportunity to sit back and enjoy the performance. Too many cinema tricks get in the way. In Robert Altman's The Player, Fred Ward bitches about how movies have become simply "cut, cut, cut", referring to studio released music video claptrap like Armageddon and Con Air. Our Song proves that mentality has trickled down into the indie circuit as well. McKay seems to have had so much good material to choose from that he decided to include everything. C'mon, man -- I'm with you! I like your style! Give me a handful of your meaningful images, and save the rest for the DVD specials!

For all that bitching, how many flicks do you see which dwell on participation in a marching band? Or actually have honest-to-goodness communication between parents and children where one isn't neatly pigeonholed as the bad guy? How about showing urban blacks and Latinos who aren't capping each other? McKay's Our Song is good enough that you wish it were stronger. Maybe he'll go back and make a keen, observational documentary about the band -- I just hope he'll hang back a little and trust his admirable performers to do some of the work for him.

They sing their song.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : , , Diana E. Williams


Comments

Our Song Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2000

Editors Recommendations

Can 'Game of Thrones' Get Any Bigger? Alex Graves Says it Already Has

‘Game of Thrones’ is a cultural phenomenon, whatever you think of the qualities it does...

Can 'Game of Thrones' Get Any Bigger? Alex Graves Says it Already Has

Jay-Z and Beyonce Plot Joint Stadium Tour for Summer 2014

Jay-Z and Beyonce, on the same bill? Yep, it looks as though the world's richest and most...

Jay-Z and Beyonce Plot Joint Stadium Tour for Summer 2014

Is 'The Revenant' Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Winning Movie?

Leonardo DiCaprio will continue his hunt for a best actor Oscar with Gonzalez Inarritu's...

Is 'The Revenant' Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Winning Movie?

Ben Affleck Is Creepy And Questionable In First Trailer For David Fincher's "Gone Girl"

The first trailer for David Fincher’s Gone Girl is out. The last bit of news about the Gillian Flynn...

Ben Affleck Is Creepy And Questionable In First Trailer For David Fincher's

Lindsay Lohan's Show Slammed By Rosie O'Donnell - Is She Right?

Lindsay Lohan has been hit with the shame and bad publicity of a fellow entertainer...

Lindsay Lohan's Show Slammed By Rosie O'Donnell - Is She Right?

The Next 'Breaking Bad'? 'Fargo' Ep. 1 Is A Must-See [Video]

New television series Fargo premiered last night on FX, giving American audiences...

The Next 'Breaking Bad'? 'Fargo' Ep. 1 Is A Must-See [Video]

The Next 'Breaking Bad'? 'Fargo' Ep. 1 Is A Must-See [Video]

New television series Fargo premiered last night on FX, giving American audiences...

The Next 'Breaking Bad'? 'Fargo' Ep. 1 Is A Must-See [Video]

Lindsay Lohan's Mother, Dina, Loses Driving Licence After Pleading Guilty To DUI

A member of the Lohan family has ran into trouble with the law, yet again...

Lindsay Lohan's Mother, Dina, Loses Driving Licence After Pleading Guilty To DUI

The First 'Gone Girl' Trailer is Weird And Different To Other Trailers

“I did not kill my wife!” exclaims Ben Affleck in the first official trailer for David Fincher’s...

The First 'Gone Girl' Trailer is Weird And Different To Other Trailers


More recommendations