Modern Bonnie and Clyde tale a frustrating and fascinating take on the aftermath of police brutality, modern love
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
Then gunfire erupts.
Certain that no one will believe the truth about what has happened, the young woman convinces the young man they have one option and one option only: Run, or more accurately, drive. Scared and panicked, the young couple thus begins a journey that will see them run into a multitude of colorful characters, including but not limited to: (1) The young woman’s uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) and his stable of ladies; (2) Sheriff Edgar (Benito Martinez); (3) a mechanic (Gralen Bryant Banks) and his son Junior (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) as well as a (4) Georgia couple played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ member Flea and Chloë Sevingy along the way.
The inadvertent Bonnie and Clyde are going to get to know each other quite well over the course of their journey, but the legacy they create on that journey be more impactful than either of them either envisioned.
As the female lead (Queen and Slim’s actual character names are revealed late in the story), Turner-Smith’s character portrayal exhibits many of the qualities exhibited with the “strong black woman” archetype, which serves at times as both a positive and, in some cases, negative. Her headstrong nature works to both her advantage and detriment in the film, but as the audience comes to learn more of background, one can see how she has come into her own with the resulting person we see today. Likewise, once thrust into a situation he never expected or asked to be, Kaluuya’s character finds himself trying to do what so many African-Americans have difficulty doing: Enjoying life and finding love in the process.
While much more aloof and naive than his counterpart, Kaluuya’s character provides a bit of balance to Turner-Smith’s. This is in turn provides (albeit in a very unconventional showcase) life in America as a black person: Dealing with the struggle of a country where racism is prevalent and can harshly affect you every day while trying to enjoy the pursue the American dream of life, liberty and happiness.
What will be the most challenging aspect of Queen & Slim, however, is how different sectors of America react to the film. African-Americans will no doubt either empathize and/or sympathize with Queen’s and Slim’s plight and how it inspires people as the story unfolds while others may take issue with the ways in which it does. The film would make a fascinating case study in watching different audiences watch the film, for the ways in which the mainstream media simply dismisses Queen and Slim versus the way they are viewed by black people is a direct reflection of America itself. Likewise, while the aspects of sex and crime might make some say they are victims of their condition, others might see various characters in the film perpetuating their own problems – and in some ways, both could argue their points.
However, what would be the best case scenario is for different groups to use the film as a conversation starter, for there are two critical topics for which the film could serve as a litmus test: (1) Examining how and why Queen and Slim become urban legends (not in the horror movie way) and (2) how poverty and being perceived as criminals by the agents whose duty is to protect people is an ongoing problem and why it directly is tied to point no. 1. There are explosive moments in the film – the meaning of one in particular that could be argued in cable news show-style ad nauseam – which are meant to spark reaction and no doubt will so.
As Waithe herself as said in interviews, Queen & Slim is in her view “protest art” and an attempt for African-Americans to “create the heroes they need.” Given what unfolds in the film, there will be some (think conservative pundits) that have extreme difficulty seeing the characters as heroes, but that no doubt is part of the point. Thus, if you are uncomfortable, find the story disturbing or at the very least dangerous, Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas will probably be happy while at the same time being upset – for as long as America continues on its current path, they are certain more Queens and Slims will come along, for better and for worse.
This is what ultimately makes Queen & Slim is worthy of being seen, even if what you see is a love story for modern times, a disturbing – or honest – take on the aftermath of police brutality on the African-American community and/or somewhere in between.