I feel like Amandla Stenberg is having a pretty good couple of years worth of exposure. Good for her. Humanitarian and a recognizable face. Get it, girl.
The story looks like it’s about a young black girl of two worlds, who goes to a high society high school, but hangs out in lower class dives. She witnesses the unjust killing of her not-boyfriend and… honestly, I tune out the trailer by this point. I just saw MONSTERS AND MEN and I swear this is basically that movie, but using a central character.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Amandla Stenberg, known for WHERE HANDS TOUCH (2018) and EVERYTHING EVERYTHING (2017). In support, we have Regina Hall (SUPPORT THE GIRLS , GIRLS TRIP , WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS , VACATION , and the upcoming PRISON LOGIC  and SHAFT ), Russell Hornsby (FENCES , and the upcoming CREED II ), Anthony Mackie (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR  and ULTRON , DETROIT , CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR  and WINTER SOLDIER , and upcoming films MISS BALA  and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW ), Common (SMALLFOOT , JOHN WICK 2 , BARBERSHOP 3  and upcoming films HUNTER KILLER  and THREE SECONDS ), and Algee Smith (DETROIT).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have George Tillman Jr., known for 1 episode of LUKE CAGE (2016 – ongoing). Penning the screenplay is the late Audrey Wells, known for A DOG’S PURPOSE (2017). Rest in peace, miss. Composing the score is Dustin O’Halloran, known for PUZZLE (2018) and LION (2016). The cinematographer is Mihai Malaimare Jr., known for SLEEPLESS (2017). Finally, the co-editors are Alex Blatt and and Craig Hayes, both known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
Overall, I honestly can’t say whether or not this is good or bad. The trailers are forgettable, so unless the movie is going to shit out a pile of emotions, I’m going to assume that this movie’s going to be forgettable too. We shall see.
This is my honest opinion of: THE HATE U GIVE
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) is a teenager who lives in Garden Heights, a rough neighborhood ran by the drug dealers, The King Lords, headed by King (Anthony Mackie). Though Starr’s father has separated himself from that life and started up his own grocery store and his family has spent their time mostly staying out of trouble. Starr even goes to a nice Catholic school and has a boyfriend. However, one Saturday night at a party, she reunites with a childhood friend, Khalil Harris (Algee Smith). After leaving the party, Kahlil and Starr attempt to drive home, but is suddenly pulled over by a police officer, ending in Kahlil getting shot and killed after his hairbrush was mistaken for a weapon. Soon, Starr becomes conflicted with whether or not she should speak out and become a target, or keep quiet.
Yup, as predicted, it’s not very good. But also as predicted, it’s a bit better than MONSTERS AND MEN, though not by much. Now that I’m thinking about it, BLINDSPOTTING did this same idea too. Boy, this has certainly been a thematic year, hasn’t it?
One of the biggest problems right away with the film is the character, Starr. She kind of reminds me of that pretentious kid who makes a stand against a problem that doesn’t exist. When she goes to school, she cleans up her speech patterns to basically sound like she’s from a middle to upper class family that’s well spoken and has manners. Even among her friends. But when she’s back on the streets of her rough neighborhood, that’s when she talks all hood and what have you. According to her character, this is because she doesn’t want to be perceived as that kind of black girl. This makes zero sense because literally everyone in her private school talks like a gangster, generally in an ironic sense, so I highly doubt anyone would truly care. And on a personal level, if you have to hide who you are from your friends, are you really friends with them? Building your friendship on lies and deception; not exactly a strong foundation. She even keeps Khalil’s death to herself around them, when so many of her problems would be solved by talking to them about what happened. But no, she doesn’t want to be seen as the poor girl who suffered trauma and needs to be comforted. It’s one thing to not want excess exposure to a crime you witnessed, but it’s another thing entirely to not trust your friends to empathize with you about your feelings. If they’re worth their weight in your life, they should be allowed to care about you. Instead, her friends rightfully think that she’s just in a mood and kind of just being a bitch for no reason. Without context, it’s no wonder some of her friends act the way they do. Basically, she overthinks things, but not in a smart way.
I’m just going to say it, everything and anything involving the King Lords was pointless. Consider, the entire movie is pretty much about Starr deciding whether or not to come forward as a witness to Khalil’s unjust killing, or to remain quiet and become a target. But when she does come forward for a televised, incognito, interview with her identity hidden from the public, she name drops the gang, “The King Lords,” but mostly stays on point about the killing. So… why do the King Lords freak out by threatening Starr and her family? Do the King Lords somehow think they’re this super secret Illuminate-type gang? Dude, I’m pretty sure a reporter with a quarter of a brain would simply need to walk down the sidewalk for an hour before figuring out who the local gang is. Also, it’s not like Starr named anyone by name. Even if she had, the police wouldn’t do anything about it as he’s not the target. The issue is whether or not a cop had genuine motive to shoot a teenager. Besides, the issue is constantly trying to be spun like Khalil was a drug dealer and he was dangerous, therefore the cop had every right to shoot him. None of this had anything to do with King. So who the hell is pissing in his Cheerios to get him to react the way he does? Also… “King Lords”? I don’t know, does anyone else feel like that name is a little repetitively redundant? See what I did there? But seriously, that’s a dumb name for a gang.
Does anyone feel the urge to call out this movie’s bullshit when a black police officer admits that he would shoot a black person if he thought he was holding a weapon, and simply tell a white person to not move and raise his hands given the same situation? This seems… particularly unlikely. But fine, let’s say I’m way too sheltered in my middle class neighborhood in Calabasas. I doubt any cop would fess up to this without deflecting the answer in some way by either changing the subject or keeping the answer ambiguous.
And how is this family able to afford a private school? We know Mav (Russell Hornsby) ain’t bringing in that cheddar to send three kids to that nice school, so what in hell does the mom, Lisa (Regina Hall), do?! We never see that (unless I missed something), but whatever she does to be able to easily say that they’re moving in separate scenes of the movie, it’s a wonder why they didn’t do that earlier. Yeah, if you have the finances to move to a safer neighborhood, you’d do it. Unless that shit’s all talk, which wouldn’t be a shock.
But, with all that said, I do have a couple of positives.
The acting is very dedicated. Even if a scene is incredibly corny, the actors are definitely trying to sell it and it surprisingly works. Not that the writing or the directing really does the movie any favors, but I give credit to the actors for proverbially clocking in and doing their jobs. Actually, one of the more standout scenes is when Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) confronts Starr about the cop being justified for shooting Khalil, Starr takes one of Hailey’s hairbrushes and starts screaming at her in a threatening manner, scaring the crap out of her to the point of falling down, cringing in fear, and crying hysterically. While the scene goes from zero to sixty a little too quickly, I give credit for making that attempt to demonstrate what it’s like being a black person constantly seen as one thing and threatened, even though the victim may be harmless.
That’s actually one of the bigger reasons why I can’t exactly hate this movie as well because it is a movie that has a respectable message. While it’s easy to say that a movie like this is being done to death, it’s sadly a relevant topic. We’ve all seen the news, made our rounds on the internet about bigotry and violence toward minorities and more than a few ignorant and sheltered assholes who think they know the “real truth.” But a movie like like does shine a light on truths that are horrendously overlooked. America is sadly in need of this message. I just wish it was told in a better movie.
Overall, this movie’s not… terrible, I guess, but it’s definitely not repetitive. Good message delivered in a pretty standard way that’s been done a thousand times over with nothing new really being done. It’s got pretty good performances and maybe one or two solid enough scenes, but I’ve seen this kind of movie done better. As a recommendation, I would say this is a rental at best, but it’s not a very high recommendation as such. You’re not really missing out if you decide to pass on it entirely.
My honest rating for THE HATE U GIVE: a weak 3/5
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