Beyond The Lights (2014)

GINA PRINCE-BYTHEWOOD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5USA, 2014, , , , Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by , , , , Music by Production Design by , Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 2014Gotham Awards  2014Toronto International Film Festival 2014.

Minnie Driver, Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights

is wonderful as a hot, trendy singer who is about to break into the big time, her duets with an established rapper ( playing a fictional version of himself) topping the charts while her record company prepares to release her first album. Pulling off sexy dance moves in skimpy clothes and rocking a rad look, she’s living life to the fullest except for one major problem: she’s miserable, and at the beginning of this movie her attempt to throw herself off her hotel balcony proves just how bad things are for her.  The security guard who rescues her () ends up making a personal connection that gives her a glimmer of the wider possibilities available to her, and spending more time with him after her incident sparks the possibility of a relationship between them.  The challenges to their relationship are severe, though: her mother (, who is riveting) has her mind set purely on her daughter’s career, while the press, who see through the smokescreen of a story about drinking too much and having an accident, are determined to get the real story of her suicide attempt. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s hard-hitting romance has such a strong command of the show business world and, specifically, the cutthroat music industry, that making sure these two people find love feels so much more important than you ever expected it to; believing Parker’s side of the equation, that he’s looking to make it in politics in order to give his character something to lose in being with her, is not as successful, that milieu is never convincing, but the film more than makes up for it in its stronger moments. The characters are never allowed to be one-note, Driver in particular is dangerously vulnerable to being turned into an Old Maid stereotype but neither she nor the perceptive screenplay allow it to happen. It concludes a bit too conveniently, but it’s a warm and thoughtful movie that rewards the viewer who sticks it out.

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