Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2007. Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Mark Gordon Productions, Pelagius Films, The Mark Gordon Company. Story by Michael Genet, Screenplay by Michael Genet, Rick Famuyiwa. Cinematography by Stephane Fontaine. Produced by Joe Fries, Mark Gordon, Sidney Kimmel, Josh McLaughlin. Music by Terence Blanchard. Production Design by Warren Alan Young. Costume Design by Gersha Phillips. Film Editing by Terilyn A. Shropshire. Independent Spirit Awards 2007.
Petey Green (Don Cheadle) gets out of the clink where he has been entertaining fellow inmates on the prison’s radio system for years with his deep thoughts and smooth words. As soon as he is out, he and his wild-mouthed girlfriend (Taraji P. Henson) head over to the offices of a big-time Washington, D.C. radio station and lean on executive Chiwetel Ejiofor to give him a job. Green’s unhinged personality and candid prose make him an instant threat to the station until the entire city starts tuning in to his program and he becomes a national celebrity. Live performance tours follow and his star ascends as far as the Tonight Show, but Green has reservations: he doesn’t want more than the little piece of sky he was originally given, despite the ambition that Ejiofor has for him, and he doesn’t believe the world is ready for him just because he’s popular. Kasi Lemmons directs a film that is energetic, vivid and passionate, moved along so beautifully by Cheadle’s performance and the superb supporting work by Ejiofor and Henson, who steals every scene whether she’s screaming or working some low-key sympathy (just watching her wigs grow over time is entertainment in itself). The film strikes all the right notes until, unfortunately, a weak conclusion that doesn’t really sum the story up emotionally; Lemmons can’t decide if Green was a reluctant hero, ahead of his time, or just plain immature. The film’s end leaves you with a quizzical feeling about his legacy that the end title cards, revealing the public outpouring of affection for him following his death, do not satisfy. All the same, it’s a wonderful experience, capturing the essence of the period in detail while at the same time blowing it up to the colourful proportions of myth, and represents Lemmons’ most successful work as a director since her debut with Eve’s Bayou.