Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Queen & Slim

Writer/director Melina Matsoukas' Queen & Slim examines how one night can change your life. Driving Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) home after their unsuccessful first date, Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) is pulled over by a racist cop looking for any excuse to escalate the situation. Two gunshots later, the pair are on the run relatively oblivious to how their story will spread across the country.

The film is built on the backs of Kaluuya and Turner-Smith whose unusual first date leads the to unexpected destinations including a family reunion, a city-wide protest in their honor, and a drive towards freedom. Slim's even demanor is a nice match for Queen's more fiery moments, and it's where the pair come together that Queen & Slim ultimately succeeds.

Matsoukas provides a stylish racially-charged tale of fugitives on the run that does begin to drag on during its final half-hour. While the decisions the pair make after killing a cop in self-defense are questionable at best, the script focuses on their perspectives, and life experience, to make the best choices they can given other equally bad alternatives.

There's certainly some nitpicking one can make about the characters who populate the story outside of our leads and Queen's Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) that fall too easily into very broad categories (and nowhere near as nuanced as Queen or Slim). The script seems to be moving to timely ending about 90 minutes through the film, but continues on another 40 minutes with a bloated subplot focused on the effect of Queen and Slim on the African American community in general, and one teenager in particular, and the only white people (Flea and Chloƫ Sevigny) sympathetic to their cause. Given that the situation with the police officer is caused, and then escalated, by Queen, I also wonder if the moral of women getting men into trouble was intentional by Matsoukas or just an lingering afterthought given how events play out.

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