I should know by now that I just need to trust in everything that Barry Jenkins chooses to do. If Beale Street Could Talk is no exception. Based on the classic James Baldwin novel, which I am about half way through reading, this story follows Tish (Kiki Layne) as she learns she is pregnant with her boyfriend Fonny’s (Stephan James) baby while he is falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. While the story is set in the early 1970’s, the struggles these characters face are still very real today.
As I said, I am about half way done with the book that this film is based on. The way that this book was adapted is amazing. There are entire scenes worth of dialogue taken directly from the each chapter. And there are certain voice over sequences also taken directly from the book. As we were watching, it was really amazing to hear the entire first page recited by Kiki Layne. I am really excited to finish this book to see how else Jenkins used the original text.
I would be remised if I did not mention the performances in this film. Kiki Layne was great in her debut performance. She played this character with a great amount of sophistication and class. Tish’s family also plays a big role in this story. Regina King masterfully plays Tish’s mother Sharon. She truly shows the desperation this family feels considering the situation they have been thrust into. The Oscar buzz she is getting for best supporting actress is well deserved.
One thing I don’t understand is why Barry Jenkins has not entered the best director conversation yet. This film is beautifully shot. The editing of this film also deserves some recognition. My favorite Patton Oswalt joke revolves around the idea that men always film too much and then female editors come in and make it all better again. I don’t know if Jenkins shot a mess of footage like Oswalt described in his routine, but the film is stunningly cut. Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders did a wonderful job. This film is all around great and it will certainly make you think about the progress, or lack thereof, that has been made in society since the 1970s.