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

Advertisement

More Kerry Washington

Primetime Emmy Awards 2014 -Breaking Bad Predictably Dominates Drama

The Primetime Emmy Awards were held on Monday evening (25th August) in Los Angeles and there was stiff competition in every category although the results...

The 66th Prime Time Emmy: Who’s In Line To Make History?

The 66th Prime Time Emmys are kicking off tonight at 8pm EDT on NBC, and with plenty of long-running shows still in the mix to...

The Definitive Guide To Watching The Emmys (When Your Favourites Got Snubbed)

Few moments are more important in television than Emmy season. Like, how will we know which new shows are good, if the Academy doesn’t tell...

ABC's 'Scandal' Releasing Clothing Line In The Limited Stores This Fall

ABC's 'Scandal' will be coming to malls this coming fall.ABC Studios revealed a new partnership with The Limited stores which will sell an apparel line...

Advertisement

Can't Have It All? Check Out Kerry Washington, Doing Just That.

After giving birth to a baby girl last month, Kerry Washington is already back working, which in her case means filming for Scandal, giving interviews...

Kerry Washington Feels "Blessed" Personally And Professionally

Kerry Washington is known for being very private when it comes to her personal life, but in a recent Q & A session she could...

ABC Announces Fall Roster - "Scandal" And "Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D." Are Safe

Besides the five new series on ABC’s roster this season, the network is also renewing a number of its hit shows. Returning favorites include the...

It Happened Two Weeks Ago: Kerry Washington Keeps Birth Of Baby Daughter Remarkably Private

Announcement time: Kerry Washington has given birth to a baby girl. The little one came into the world on April 21 (kudos to Washington for...

Advertisement