If Beale Street Could Talk (film)
If Beale Street Could Talk is a 2018 American romantic drama film directed and written by Barry Jenkins, and based on James Baldwin's novel of the same name. It stars KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, Ed Skrein, Brian Tyree Henry, and Regina King. The film follows a young woman who, with her family's support, seeks to clear the name of her wrongly charged lover and prove his innocence before the birth of their child.
|If Beale Street Could Talk|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barry Jenkins|
|Screenplay by||Barry Jenkins|
|Based on||If Beale Street Could Talk |
by James Baldwin
|Music by||Nicholas Britell|
|Distributed by||Annapurna Pictures|
|Box office||$20.6 million|
If Beale Street Could Talk had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 14, 2018, by Annapurna Pictures. It was praised for the acting (particularly by King), Jenkins's screenplay and direction, the cinematography, and the musical score. It was chosen by both the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. The film received numerous accolades and nominations, including Best Supporting Actress wins for King at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. It was also nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Screenplay at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, and Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score at the 91st Academy Awards.
While the film is presented in a non-linear structure, this plot summary is written in a linear fashion.
Clementine "Tish" Rivers and Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt have been friends their whole lives, and begin a romantic relationship when they are older. It is the early 1970s, and they struggle to find a place to live as most New York City landlords refuse to rent apartments to black people. They eventually find a place in a warehouse in the process of being converted to loft apartments; Levy, the Jewish landlord, agrees to rent it to them at a reasonable rate because he enjoys seeing couples who are in love, regardless of their race.
That night, Tish is harassed by a man while shopping at a mostly white grocery store. When he begins to assault her, Fonny physically throws the man out of the store. A white policeman nearby, Officer Bell, witnesses the incident and attempts to arrest Fonny, but reluctantly lets him go when the white woman who runs the grocery store vouches for them and calls Bell out for his racism.
Fonny is later arrested and accused of raping a woman named Victoria Rogers. Although it would have been nearly impossible for him to have traveled from the scene of the crime to the apartment where he was arrested in the amount of time between the rape and the arrest, the case against Fonny is considered strong due to Officer Bell's testimony, in which he claims to have seen Fonny fleeing the scene, and Victoria having identified Fonny in a lineup as her rapist. Tish, as well as Fonny's friend Daniel Carty, were with him at the time of the rape, but his alibi is not considered reliable due to Tish's romantic relationship with Fonny and Daniel's previous conviction for grand theft auto (the result of a plea bargain after being arrested for marijuana possession).
Tish visits Fonny in jail as he awaits trial, and reveals to him that she is pregnant with their baby. Fonny is excited to be a father, but is saddened by the fact that his child might be born with him behind bars. Later, Tish tells her parents, Sharon and Joseph, and sister, Ernestine, about her pregnancy. Though worried for her, Tish's family is supportive and decide to invite Fonny's family over to share the news. Frank, Fonny's father, is excited about the pregnancy. However, Fonny's highly religious mother declares the child to be a sin due to being conceived out of wedlock, and rants about how Tish and her child are damned. As Mrs. Hunt begins to leave with her daughters in disgust after Frank hits her, Sharon reminds her that she has just condemned her own grandchild, leaving her emotionally distraught as she is escorted away. In a bar, Frank and Joseph discuss how the former is worried about paying for a child and Fonny's legal expenses, but Joseph convinces him that they will be able to provide for their grandchild the same way they provided for their children.
After tracking Victoria to her native Puerto Rico, Sharon travels there to plead with her to change her testimony. Sharon attempts to convince Victoria that she made a mistake when she identified Fonny as her rapist, but Victoria refuses. When Sharon questions whether Victoria could have seen her rapist's face in the dark, Victoria says the police told her to identify Fonny in a line-up, and she did so. When Sharon gently touches her, Victoria begins to scream, attracting the attention of her neighbors, forcing Sharon to leave. Discouraged by the seeming hopelessness of his case and the constant trial delays, Fonny eventually accepts a plea deal.
In the last scene of the film, Tish and the child, named Alonzo, Jr., after his father, are visiting Fonny in prison. They all share a dinner together from the vending machines, while looking forward to Fonny's eventual release.
- KiKi Layne as Clementine "Tish" Rivers
- Milanni Mines as Young Tish
- Stephan James as Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt
- Ethan Barrett as Young Fonny
- Regina King as Sharon Rivers, Tish's mother
- Teyonah Parris as Ernestine Rivers, Tish's sister
- Colman Domingo as Joseph Rivers, Tish's father
- Brian Tyree Henry as Daniel Carty, Fonny's friend and a recent parolee
- Ed Skrein as Officer Bell, a police officer who testifies against Fonny
- Emily Rios as Victoria Rogers, a rape victim who misidentifies Fonny
- Michael Beach as Frank Hunt, Fonny's father
- Aunjanue Ellis as Alice Hunt, Fonny's mother
- Ebony Obsidian as Adrienne Hunt, Fonny's sister
- Dominique Thorne as Sheila Hunt, Fonny's sister
- Finn Wittrock as Hayward, Fonny's lawyer
- Diego Luna as Pedrocito, a waiter and Fonny's friend
- Pedro Pascal as Pietro Alvarez, a man who sets up the meeting between Victoria and Sharon
- Dave Franco as Levy, a landlord
On July 10, 2017, it was announced that Barry Jenkins would direct an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk. Jenkins wrote the screenplay during the summer of 2013, as he was writing Moonlight.
On October 18, 2017, it was reported that If Beale Street Could Talk had begun filming in New York City. That same month, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, and Ed Skrein joined the cast of the film. Michael Beach, Finn Wittrock, Aunjanue Ellis, and Diego Luna were added in November, and in December 2017, Pedro Pascal and Emily Rios joined. In March 2018, Nicholas Britell was announced as the composer of the film's score.
If Beale Street Could Talk began a limited release in the United States on December 14, 2018, with an expanded release on December 25. It had previously been scheduled for November 30, 2018. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2018. It also screened at the New York Film Festival on October 11, 2018, the New Orleans Film Festival on October 21, 2018, and the St. Louis International Film Festival on November 10, 2018.
During its opening weekend, December 14, the film made $219,174 from four theaters, for a per-venue average of $54,794, one of the best of 2018. In its second weekend, the film earned $114,902, and in its third made $759,578 from 65 theaters. In its fourth weekend, the film expanded to 335 theaters, earning $1.9 million. The next weekend, January 11, following its Golden Globe win, the film expanded to 1,018 theaters and grossed $2.3 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95%, based on 317 reviews, with an average rating of 8.63/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film an 82% overall positive score and a 65% "definite recommend".
Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film an "A–", stating: "Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight also maintains his own expressionistic aesthetic, with its lush colors and entrancing faces that speak volumes in few words, resulting in a fascinating hybrid experience — a seminal voice of the past merging with one of the present in a mesmerizing burst of creative passion." Siddhant Adlakha of /Film said the film felt "electric and alive" and specified, "The worlds these characters create — whether in the form of individual, soul-piercing stares, or moments of burning passion filmed in profile — carry with them the weight of the very history of which Tish constantly speaks."
At the 76th Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for three awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Supporting Actress for King, and Best Screenplay, with King winning. At the 91st Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Supporting Actress for Regina King, with King winning. At the 24th Critics' Choice Awards, the film received five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for King, and Best Adapted Screenplay. In addition, both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute included it in their Top 10 Films of 2018. The film was also nominated for Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Film of the Year 2019.
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