Friday, November 14, 2014
You know who else really liked the movie? Another new Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor - Terri Heard. I introduced you to Mikhail last month who interviewed writer/director Justin Simian of Dear White People and now I've found another terrific writer.
I really like Terri's fun, descriptive style and she's really put a lot of her personality into the piece. So please see Beyond the Lights, more than celebrating African American female leads, the movie works and is worthwhile seeing in the theaters. T &T's LAMB Score: 4.5 outta 5
- Le Anne Lindsay, Editor
Falling for the (Fake) Fairy Taleby Tinsel & Tine Blog Contributor Terri Heard
Okay, true confession time: were you one of those little Black girls who ran around with a sweater on your head pretending you had long, Marcia Brady hair? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
* slowly raises hand *…
Yep, that was me – and my sister, and the neighborhood girls and my classmates so don’t judge me…much. Whoopi Goldberg built a whole classic monologue on this tragi-comic little phenomenon and it was funny because it was true. Admit it, we all wanted that hair. We wanted it. Our mothers wanted it. Our boyfriends wanted it. And we made damn sure we got it with years of greasing, hot combing – remember Eddie Murphy’s “hot tub” routine; somebody needs to do a “hot comb” routine – relaxing, and anything else we could think of that gave us the look. When I finally realized just how much physical – those combs and chemicals hurt – and financial – no, I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars at the hair dresser every month – pain this routine put me through, I gave it up – but only when the pain became too much.
That’s the struggle at the heart of romantic drama Beyond the Lights. Who do you want to be? How do you want to do it? How much pain are you willing to endure and how much pride are you willing to jettison to achieve it? Just like all of us, the struggle starts early for tween-age Noni (India Jean-Jacques), a biracial/Black girl growing up in the London ghetto of Brixton with her ambitious white single mother, Macy Jean (Minnie Driver). In the opening scene, Macy Jean is driving through London desperately looking for a hairdresser who can tame her daughter’s kinks into something that will appeal to a panel of talent show judges the next day. Although the hairdresser is sympathetic, Macy Jean pulls no punches. It’s obvious that Noni’s chances are sunk before she even gets to the stage when the spotlight falls on a blond, blue-eyed Shirley Temple wannabe who’s got the camera-ready polish and contrived sweetness we’ve all wanted to stomp on at one time or another. With that sleek, shining hair, Noni’s rival is everything Noni isn’t. In her still kinky, barely tamed hair and geeky glasses, Noni just stands up there flat-footed and sings – an aching, a cappella version of Nina Simone’s “Blackbird.” but Noni is brilliant. The judges and audience love her – but not enough. Noni comes in second to you know who. Noni might be happy, but Mama is not. In a wrenching scene masterfully emoted by Minnie Driver, Noni’s mother forces her to throw her trophy away – because second-best is just not good enough. Not now. Not ever.
Fast forward to the 21st century and Noni is all grown up and on top of the world. The glasses are gone. A glossy weave has replaced her kinks. She’s got the number one single. She’s dating the hottest rapper. She’s just won a Billboard Music Award. And her debut album is ready to drop any day. Unfortunately, so is Noni. Minutes after Noni checks into her hotel room, police officer Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker) is forced to break down the door to find Noni cold and crying, sitting on the edge of balcony, her legs dangling over the side and her hands ready to let go at any minute. And that’s just the first act.
|Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Recording Artist Noni|
Minnie Driver is absolutely superb as Noni’s grim stage mother. Always a likable screen presence, Driver doesn’t shrink from conveying all of her character’s meanness and mendacity while at the same time hinting at the complex motives that drive her. While you can’t genuinely like her, you nevertheless can’t help but feel for her even if you can’t cheer for her.
On a side note, it’s fun to play spot the cameo with the rest of the supporting cast. Keep your eye out for Chaka Khan, Sanaa Lathan, Gayle King, Don Lemon, and a slew of stars from the BET Music Awards ceremony during which part of the film was shot.
The Verdict? If you loved Love and Basketball – and honestly who didn’t? And if you didn’t, what are you, a terrorist? – you’ll love #BeyondtheLights. Prince-Bythewood combines timeless warmth and tenderness with up-to-the-minute commentary on the costs of fame particularly in the cut-throat music industry. While you may leave feeling uneasy about the costs of fame, you’ll also leave uplifted by the notion that love – love for yourself and your partner – conquers all.
Terri Heard has been a writer and editor for TV Guide, for whom she’s interviewed Chris Rock, Chaka Khan, Christina Aguilera and more. Based in Philadelphia, she’s currently working on her first novel, Dirty Lens.
Have You Heard: BEYOND THE LIGHTS http://t.co/9rwnIpFYLF on @bloglovinto get notices on Free Screenings, Giveaways and Upcoming Philly Events!
— Tinsel & Tine (@tinseltine) November 14, 2014
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