The Hate U Give Review
Starr Carter is a seemingly normal teenage girl. But Starr Carter is torn between two different worlds. She's the only black girl at a predominately white private school. Where all the white kids know the words to all the rap songs. Where all the white kids use "black slang," when it makes sense to the situation or not. Where all the white kids ditch school to go to a protest only to sigh in relief for getting out of a chemistry test. That's one piece of Starr Carter's life, or at least as she would say, one version. The other version from Garden Heights. Her neighborhood. The predominately black neighborhood. Just about everybody is poor there. The crime rate is high, and of course the police force is mostly white. Her father has lots of pride and wants to live in Garden Heights because its his birthright. Her mother sends her children to Williamson Prep to keep them safe from the dangers of Garden Heights public school, a place invested with gang life. This is the life of Starr Carter.
"The Hate U Give" will look to many as another typical black perspective movie, but its anything but. I know there is probably a big piece of the audience that will sadly, tune out the movie because of what the movie says. But if you think you know what the movie is saying after say...the first half hour, you don't. Within the first half hour, Starr Carter, brought to life by the magnificent Amandla Stenberg, hears a shooting at a party and leaves with an old friend Khalil (Algee Smith). They talk, they catch-up, they haven't seen each other in a while, then they get pulled over. They get pulled over by a white police officer. They get pulled over for a violation so small most cops probably don't even think of it. But its a "thuggish" looking black teen in a car with a girl late at night, so something must be wrong right? The altercation leaves Khalil dead, shot down by the white officer. The officer thought Khalil had a weapon, but he didn't. Starr saw it all.
There are those that will leap to the idea that this movie will be able the trial. But that's not really what the movie is about. If you think "The Hate U Give" is about the trial, you're not seeing the movie. That's what the movie is about, no seeing things. The trail is definitely the backdrop of the movie, but the entire movie is about perspective. Starr Carter's perspective. How she reacts to the perspectives of her community, the conflicting perspectives of her parents, the perspectives of her white peers... it all affects the decisions she makes from the beginning of the movie to the end. The movie is about seeing people, really seeing people, not just looking at them and taking what you can at face value. Its crazy to think that in 2018, we still need to be reminded of this, but it is the sad truth.
Amandla Stenberg is a revelation here, and her sole performance is the reason this whole movie works. She's the glue to literally every facet of the movie; every other performance, every emotion, every metaphor. It's hard to believe that Stenberg was Rue in "The Hunger Games" back in 2012 and that she has grown up into an adorable, calculated performer. Sure, she plays off really well with her cast. A cast that included AJ Kpa, Sabrina Carpenter, Issa Rae, Anthony Mackie, Lamar Johnson and Common. There are actors who come and go, but they breathe life into their characters and create a situation that many of us have only seen from our television screens, but when you are actually living something, its much different.
There are two other big performances in the movie, that they belong to Russell Hornsby who plays Starr's father and Regina Hall who plays her mother. Hornsby's Maverick feels the pride of Garden Heights, despite the danger. He wants his children to be strong people, even going as far as to recite the rules passed down by the Black Panther Party. Hall's Lisa is only concerned about keeping her children safe. She's the one who pushed for private school. She'd have the whole family move out of the neighborhood if she thought she could get away with it. These two are lions in the flesh and they both shape the perspective of Starr as well.
The title is pulled from a Tupac tattoo. The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone. Harsh words, but true words. The perspectives which we represent are seen by all, even the younger generations and if those perspectives aren't positive, that means the future can only get worse. We think by just one little news story that we understand the police shootings of unarmed black teens, but the truth is that we don't. If we are not allowing ourselves to see each perspective, if we allow hate to infect our rationale, then we affect the next generation in a negative way. This movie is more than what happens to a white police officer and his black victim, its about how we carry ourselves within the situation. How our perspectives and the perspectives of everyone around us can effect the hate we decide to give each other.
We are navigating the old political circus right now and while I do vote, I also feel its a tough landscape to navigate. It seems no matter who is in power, we are being manhandled by a bunch greedy assholes who only want our votes. Just simple counters to put towards their team so that they have the power. When politics become a team sport, then we have really lost our way. We really need to see situations and see people's needs for what they are, not see how our privilege or gain can be accommodated by it. See everyone for who they are and listen to their stories. Without bias and without your own baggage. Every American owes it to themselves to see this movie.
FINAL GRADE: A