Hot Take: The mix of a coming-of-age story and an introspective into racial relations works exceptionally well and it’s timely, too.
Racial division is something we’re seeing more and more in our current political climate. All too often, fragile racial relations have been weaponized for political gain which has heightened tensions between races in some cases. This makes The Hate U Give a timely addition to the cinema. Similar to Monsters and Men yet different as it focuses on a young African American woman who witnesses an accidental police shooting during a routine traffic stop. It brings to light some major issues between police and the black community and tells it from a unique perspective. With a solid cast featuring Amandla Stenberg in the lead role, The Hate U Give finds a delicate balance between coming-of-age and social justice and sends a strong message regarding our current climate and what needs to change.
In The Hate U Give, Starr (Stenberg) struggles with dueling lives. By day, she’s a student at Williamson Prep, a mostly white private school where she assimilates with friends and has a boyfriend who is also white. When not in school, Starr is at home in the projects of Garden Heights where she lives with her family. Her father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) owns a store in the community and her mother Lisa (Regina Hall) works as a nurse. Her brother Sekani (TJ Wright) and step-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson) also attend the private school. One weekend, Starr goes to a party where gun shots are fired. An old friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), helps get her to safety and while the two are driving Starr back home, they are pulled over. During the traffic stop, Khalil is told to get out of the car and while the officer is checking his license, Khalil reaches in the car to grab a hair brush and is shot and killed by the officer. Following the shooting, the incident becomes national news and Starr’s double life is turned on it’s ear.
The film digs into racial relations and Starr’s internal battle to stay out of the spotlight but still do her part to address the injustice she witnessed. She wants to remain a teenager but the incident forces her to grow up faster than she wanted to. Stenberg delivers an excellent performance and is quickly becoming one of the best young stars in Hollywood. Director George Tillman Jr. also has built an impressive resume with The Hate U Give as one of his best works to date. Somehow the film manages to balance the heavy topic with some lighthearted moments without ever feeling superfluous. It’s also managed to hold well at the box office only losing roughly 30-35% of it’s box office week over week allowing the film to remain in the top 10 for 5 consecutive weeks after a small 36 theater opening weekend. It’s a testament to a well written story with a great cast and solid direction overcoming any lack of marketing or a wide release to drive the box office number up.
You don’t want to miss out on Amandla Stenberg’s rise to stardom.
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