Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Straight Outta Compton Review

"Yo, Dre."

"What up?"

"I got something to say."

2015. The year of the resurgence of biopics. Despite the award acclaim they received a year ago, I wasn't buying what they were selling. Others fell in love with their stories. I was bored.

First it was Love & Mercy, the story of Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys. That film worked so well because it didn't abide by the typical tropes that get this sub-genre in trouble. That film told its story from a unique perspective, looking at two separate crucial moments at very different times in his life. I was praising the absence of the traditional passage of time, point A to point Z predictable method of illustrating a life. 

Now it's Straight Outta Compton, chronicling the birth of the group N.W.A and documenting the lives of its members. Why does this film work where as other biopic style cinema makes me want to take a nap?

Because it's god damn electric dynamite, that's why.

F. Gary Gray crafts a story that many are already familiar with in a way that feels fresh and exciting and alive, with a mood that pulses from the music and the performances and the nuance found in the relationships. There is a beautiful rhythm to the flow of this film, but it isn't all evenly paced which actually works to its benefit. There are plenty of moments that take their time and allow us to breathe and realize that we are focusing on real people with real and sometimes mundane issues, which makes the frenetic power of the concert sequences and the palpable tension between the police and the massively popular group loudly declaring their anger and frustration towards them feel like a blast of energy rather than the status quo.

Sure, the story omits some pretty big details from the true story of the rise of N.W.A. and I am sure many will be turned off by Straight Outta Compton not painting with a perfectly honest brush, but to be blunt, I just don't care. I don't. At a different time in my life I may have found a reason to express frustrations at a true story not being completely bathed in facts, but I have come to accept that liberties have been and will continue to be taken with these type of works. Just give me the most authentic possible vision that results in the best film, plain and simple. If including every detail meant the pacing would have been off even just a slight bit or the characters plight would have lost even the smallest bit of power, then I'm thrilled with the choices that were made.

If you didn't think Straight Outta Compton would appeal to you because you didn't care for their music or just don't really care about the people involved, I may not be able to convince you to check it out. I understand, it happens. For me though, it all comes down to the screenplay and the filmmaking, not the subjects being focused on. I didn't think a film about Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook would be interesting, yet The Social Network is one of my favorite films of all time because of Sorkin's words, Reznor and Ross's score and Fincher's taut, incredible direction. I thought the stories of Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking would grab me and never let me go and yet I felt sleepy and disinterested through most of The Imitation Game and a fair amount of The Theory of Everything

Straight Outta Compton did grab me and it still hasn't let me go. A hell of a film.


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