Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1994. Universal Pictures, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Child Hood Productions. Story by Joie Lee, Screenplay by Joie Lee, Spike Lee, Cinqué Lee. Cinematography by Arthur Jafa. Produced by Spike Lee. Music by Terence Blanchard. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter. Film Editing by Barry Alexander Brown.
Spike Lee follows the grandeur and controversy of Malcolm X with a sweet and subtle story examining the life of a Brooklyn family loosely based on his own, from a script written by him and his siblings Cinque and Joie Lee. Five children are being raised by a tough schoolteacher mother (Alfre Woodard, in a typically superb performance) and struggling musician father (Delroy Lindo, romantic and complicated) whose home is a constant flurry of shouting and screaming, sometimes the humorous tizzy of kids fighting over the television and other times serious conflict between the parents that results in temporary separations. The film is told from the point of view of little sister Troy, the only girl among the children, who brings her own brand of rebellion to dealing with sibling rivalry (including a very funny handling of her brother’s prized coin collection). The centrepiece of the story has Troy being sent to live with her aunt in the south, then coming home to bad news in the family, turning a film that was charming and whimsical into something deeply poignant and heartbreaking. The personalities of all involved are so captivating, and their interactions so vibrant, that the film’s lack of a defined plot is not only forgivable but proven necessary, Lee puts as much love and affection into this recreation of the world of his youth as he usually reserves for his bold depictions of conflict in contemporary American life.