Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) open our story on what is clearly a first date. She an attorney and he a passive religious type, not seeming to even have one single thing in common down to even the tiniest of facts that she orders a salad while he orders steak and eggs. When the eggs aren’t scrambled the way he ordered, she expects him to make a fuss to the waitress and when he doesn’t, she seems to throw shade not just at this fact, but that the diner feels ‘cheap’ to her. But there is more to this that meets the initial eye as he slowly makes his point to her. Not only is the waitress someone he knows from his neighborhood and single mother supporting her kids on her own, but the business is black owned, making the reasoning behind his choice much more than ‘cheap’. This is just the first thing that will make you start to take notice of all the little things that happen throughout this film.
We soon realize that this date is just not working for both parties involved and as Slim is driving Queen home, the couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when they are pulled over by a police officer. What happens next will tear the fabric of your being completely apart as you watch with a feeling of being punched in the gut. As you see them pull over and stop for a small driving infraction, things quickly escalate with Slim trying to keep his calm with a cop who is looking for anything to arrest on as he yells at them to keep showing their hands and get out of the car. Instead, as Queen steps out, our trigger-happy officer fires his weapon hitting her in the leg. Slim jumps into a melee with the officer and as they struggle the weapon goes off killing the officer immediately. Our ‘first date’ has just turned into two fugitives going on the run – Bonnie & Clyde style.
Without going into spoilers, this is where Director Melina Matsoukas guides us through their entire journey of life on the run. The setup is promising and both actors have enough pull to take you along for the ride. Where it fails at times during this run, is mostly in it’s editing and pacing especially past the halfway point. The movie feels about 40 minutes too long. In the beginning, the characters’ decision to go on the run feels very haphazard, especially considering Queen’s profession. Some of the main character decisions are remarkably dumb at times (a scene at a gas station will leave you scratching your head) and certain other side characters take decisions that are unlike them. The movie can be downright infuriating at times. It has so much potential, but with it’s slow pace it ends up not fulfilling the promise of what could have been a great fugitive movie with a strong social message – even though it legitimately makes you have a physical reaction to what’s happening onscreen. After all that, the movie doesn’t know what it wants to do. It’s plethora of confused dialogue coupled with amazing performances by the two leads make for a tolerable hour of entertainment, but way to long of a journey at 132 minutes of run time.
“Queen & Slim” might have a bit of modern day “Bonnie & Clyde” vibe to it, but this film speaks to our times. It can be electrifying, funny and honest – a film that will grab you along for one hell of a ride. Daniel Kaluuya continues to dazzle and Jodie Turner-Smith is not only simply stunning, but quite remarkable in her performance as well. A very special mention to supporting actor Bokeem Woodbine who’s performance is unmissable as Queen’s Uncle Earl.
With the screenplay written by Lena Waithe from a story by her and James Frey, the movie is an emotional journey, while not perfect and a bit long, when considering the repetitive structure of the story, this IS a movie that everyone should see. To every single disenfranchised person, most especially those of colour, I’m sure this film hits hard and hits home and there are those of you that can easily envision yourself in their shoes.
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 21, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“QUEEN AND SLIM” IS OUT IN U.S. THEATERS NOW // WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW JANUARY 2020