The Hate U Give — “Good Enough” is good enough for this f’d up world

Written 10/23/18

Amandla Stenberg is a “Starr” on the rise with her powerful performance in The Hate U Give. George Tillman Jr. is incredibly lucky that he cast Stenberg and Russell Hornsby, because without them this movie would have been terrible (the rest of the cast is also very good, but these two take the cake). That being said, this movie wasn’t made for me, and I always try to keep that in the very front of my mind while criticizing these types of films.

This seems to be quite a year for teen dramas with a purpose. Love, Simon started us off strong as the first blockbuster in history to center on a gay teenage boy. The Hate U Give, though an inferior film, follows this trend by focusing on police brutality and racism within the outline of a classic teen narrative. I applaud Tillman Jr. and Audrey Wells (writer) for what they were attempting and the level to which they succeeded, but they didn’t succeed enough for me. The dialogue was a bit painful, especially in the first third. The setup uses the familiar trope of a voiceover by Starr (Stenberg) explaining what it’s like to live two lives: one in the ghetto and one in a prep school. I find the setting interesting in and of itself, but the clunky description was a rough way to start off. The movie gets significantly better once the conflict sets in, allowing Stenberg to use her significants talent of expressing traumatic emotions. Interestingly, Stenberg seems much more comfortable expressing large, difficult emotions; her depiction of Starr pre-shooting is fairly awkward, as if she spent so much time rehearsing the “hard” scenes, that the establishing scenes were then forgotten. However, her skills at showing a combination of anger, fear, and confusion rival what I’ve seen from most professional adult performers. I would be very surprised if her career doesn’t explode with offers to play troubled dramatic characters.

Beyond that there isn’t much to say, unfortunately. This movie was just okay. I definitely wanted more from it but also didn’t expect the world.

I recognize that 14 year old me would have been head over heels for this story and I hope 14 year olds all over the country will go to see it and hear what it has to say. It isn’t a great film but it is an essential one and I hope we get many more like it.

Rating: Good. In my top 30 if 2018.

19) BlackkKlansman
20) First Reformed
21) First Man
22) A Quiet Place
23) Annihilation
24) Blaze
25) Tag
26) The Miseducation of Cameron Post
27) The Hate U Give
28) Hereditary
29) Avengers: Infinity War
30) Black Panther
31) Tully
32) Searching
33) Mandy