The Hate U Give (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
One of 2018’s best films.
Much like the generation it targets, people may underestimate this film considerably. The Hate U Give gives a mature, yet youthful spin on race relations in a context we all can learn something from.
The Oscar buzz is warranted. Amandla Stenberg gives one of the year’s finest performances and The Hate U Give is a movie we all need to see, discuss, and think about for a long time to come.
I cannot create a legitimate reason for someone to not see The Hate U Give.
Don’t make me say it publicly.
Those who will brand this as an anti-white, anti-police film have no clue what they are talking about it, and speak to something more sinister in those remarks. This is a beautifully made, powerful and unforgettable story that opens up a dialogue about race in 2018 America. Take your teenagers, have a conversation, and more importantly, do not wall yourself to the message here.
As profound as John Singleton’s 1992 groundbreaking film Boyz-N-The Hood was on gang violence in Compton, California, George Tillman, Jr.’s The Hate U Give is a sobering, necessary, and vital statement on race relations in America, c. 2018. As brilliantly composed as it is assertive, this might be the most important we have so far this year.
Without a doubt, this is one of 2018’s best films.
Watching the trailer may give you the impression that The Hate U Give is some young adult, teenage, juvenile commentary on race. However, much like how older generations continually undermine and underestimate the post-Millennial generation, Tillman has delivered a film which speaks loudly, boldly, and finds its voice right along with Starr, the female protagonist who, at 16 years old, will soon witness a second of her childhood best friends die, unarmed, from gun violence.
Starr is brought to life in an incredible performance by Amandla Stenberg (Everything, Everything), a young woman caught between two worlds. At home, she resides in the poor, mostly black neighborhood of Garden Heights. At school, she attends the private, largely white-attended Williamson Prep. There, she has a boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa), but she compartmentalizes him away from her life back home. Resourceful and intuitive to the different worlds she observes, Starr keeps her Garden Heights world away from Williamson and so on.
Another Garden Heights weekend party becomes life-altering for Starr when her childhood best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) arrives. Taken aback in seeing him, she later acknowledges turning her back on him when she started attending Williamson. Happy to see him, she instantly recognizes his shoes, clothes, and expensive jewelry may indicate that he’s gone down a troubled path.
After an altercation occurs with other attendees at the party, Starr and Khalil drive off and chat on the side of the road. When Khalil later attempts to drive Starr home, he is pulled over for allegedly failing to signal a proper lane change. Compliant but talkative to the white police officer, Starr waits in the passenger seat. When Khalil reaches into his car to grab a hair brush, two shots are fired - Khalil is down from gunshot wounds to the chest, Starr is handcuffed and set down next to him, and the officer is demanding to know where the weapon is.
As emotional and difficult a scene as that is to watch (someone near me remarked to her friend - ‘why didn’t he just stand still like he was told?’), The Hate U Give moves us past this tragedy and shows us, in sobering, shocking detail, just how commonplace this tragedy is for African-Americans.
Tragically, Starr’s parents, Maverick (Russell Hornsby) and Lisa (Regina Hall), know exactly what to do, almost subconsciously relying on learned behavior in trying to help their family deal with Kahlil’s murder. Soon enough, Khalil emerges as the latest poster child for the national news, another chapter in the ongoing story of unarmed black men being killed by white police officers.
One of the more astute observations made by Tillman and screenwriter Audrey Wells is that this practice may be just as disingenuous as people protesting simply to cut school or blissfully moving through life unaware of the world around them.
The Hate U Give is bold and unafraid, enhancing the effect its message on its viewers. When the film starts to feel heavy-handed, it offers new insights and observations.
Though this is PG-13 and Singleton’s film is rated R, I could not shake the comparisons between both films. We seldom get to observe the families, feel the pain from the communities, and witness actual stories behind the names and faces we see strewn across our news. When watching an unflattering segment on local television, cameras are thrown in front of a grieving woman, hair messy, clothes a bit disheveled, leading someone to ask out loud, “Why do they have to put Mrs. Harris on TV like that?”
Over the film’s visceral and powerful 132 minutes, The Hate U Give never slows down. Mirroring the emotional maturation of Starr, we see the differences in how white people and black people view Khalil’s murder. As Starr begins to realize that she needs to find her voice and marry the two sides of her world together, old dangers and fractures emerge as Maverick runs up against King (Anthony Mackie), the Garden Heights king lord who employed Khalil and does not want Starr to talk to the grand jury for fear of bringing down his entire operation.
Tragically, Wells passed away from complications from cancer the day prior to The Hate U Give being released in theaters. Her adaptation of Angie Thomas’ acclaimed novel of the same name is, in a word, brilliant.
And now let’s just get a few things out of the way.
The Hate U Give is not anti-white, anti-cop, or attempting to make white people feel bad about the privilege they experience in this country. To the contrary, Starr, and other characters, are openly discussing and confronting the realities of their world, in the framework available to them. Through a youthful but mature eye, Tillman’s film is trying to understand just where and how everything fits together.
When Starr’s uncle, Carlos (Common), an African-American police officer, all but admits he would not have pulled the trigger if he saw a white man holding a hair brush like Khalil was, the only words he can give to his grieving niece is that it’s a complicated world.
Starr does not accept his response.
Nor should she and nor should we.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Common, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, K.J. Apa, Dominique Fishback, Lamar Johnson, TJ Wright, Megan Lawless, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Karan Kendrick, Drew Starkey.
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Written by: Audrey Wells
Based on the novel, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
Release Date: October 12, 2018
20th Century Fox