Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writer: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Cast: Nate Parker, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover
Studio: Relativity

“Beyond the Lights” should not have been as good as it was. While the film was marketed as a chick flick, I’d go so far as to say that it plays as an ethnic take on the pressures of stardom. Watching as the machine chews up a peculiar style and spits it back out is interesting. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is stunning in the first film that has really raised my awareness of the young woman. I later discovered that she was the lead in “Belle” and played Tish Jones during the Tennant years on “Doctor Who”. She holds her own in scenes with Minnie Driver, but I guess that hasn’t been a tall order since 1997. Gugu’s casting was enough for SONY to pull out of releasing the film due to hanging such a targeted movie on an unknown.

Movies about artists finding themselves are a dime a dozen. However, the film feels real in its earnest approach to a young pop star trying to find what works. Sure, you can end up singing her own music, but the movie doesn’t attempt to say anything past that. The moment when she gets to take control of her life is a personal victory and there’s not a ton of attention paid to the possible fiscal consequences. But, does it matter? Do we live in an age where every element of filmed fantasy has to be examined to the point of becoming textbook material?

It’s been a long time since “Love & Basketball” and I have to say that Gina Prince-Bythewood’s direction was missed. She was one of the few indie directors I trust to deliver a quality film each and every time, but I get why her direction isn’t for everyone. She pulls herself to the back burner a ton and lets the movie find itself. Such detachment is asking a lot for modern audiences that have been trained to follow cues like circus seals. Hopefully, this movie finds a better life on home video.


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