The Hate U Give
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Common, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, K.J. Apa
Runtime: 133 Minutes
The Hate U Give is certainly a movie of its time but is just as relevant today as it would have been four decades ago. That is the power of this story and cinema overall. It is unfortunate that this movie is still so accurate after all these decades. It is a reminder of the distance not traveled by society; the progress not made. It is a simple story with a powerful message. Tupac said that T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. stood for The Hate U Give Little Infants F’s Everybody. As you can tell from the title of the film, this is the backbone of the movie and novel of the same name.
Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is a teenager from a troubled side of town. She is from a good family surrounded by drugs and, in turn, crime. Starr was raised on the Black Panther Ten-Point Program by her father, Mav (Russell Hornsby), who taught all of his kids that they were important and to always stand up for their rights. Mav, or Maverick, is a flawed father, but of the best kind. He grew up in the streets selling drugs and making a name for himself with a local gang. He served prison time and then got out of the game and now owns a local convenience store. After one of Starr’s friends is accidentally killed in a drive-by shooting, the family moves their kids to a private school in more well-to-do town. It is here that Starr splits herself into two people: the girl who speaks properly and dresses the part, and the girl who speaks “black” and hangs with her friend in the town she lives in. One night at a party in her neighborhood, she meets up with an old friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), who she has known since childhood. Khalil has fallen on hard times and is now a drug dealer with a good heart and charm. When gunshots ring out at the party, Khalil offers to drive Starr home. On a routine traffic stop, an unarmed Khalil is killed by a white police officer while Starr watches in horror.
The meat of this story is what happens to the officer and what his fate will be. If this sounds “ripped from the headlines” that’s because this is something that is happening in America and this movie tackles the struggle head-on. I give credit to Angie Thomas who wrote the novel this film is based on. It is an important story and lesson to tell. Starr and her community want justice for Khalil, and they are willing to protest and fight to get it. Common has a good turn as Starr’s uncle and a fellow police officer. In a short, but important scene, he explains to Starr the situation from a cop’s perspective. Since Common is portraying an African-American officer, his words are significant. There are many key scenes in The Hate U Give, but the climax was indeed riveting and deserved. The T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. acronym ends up blatantly personified and should make anyone pause and think about the message. George Tillman Jr. does what words cannot and puts the heartbreaking image right in front of us and makes us confront ourselves about how we are failing as a society. It’s hard to watch, it’s honest, and it makes for one of 2018’s best scenes.
The cast does an incredible job here, but to me, Russell Hornsby as Starr’s father is incredible. His role as a strong black man and as a Father is moving. He stole every scene he was in, and I feel he will be overlooked come award season. Riverdale’s K.J. Apa plays Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend and does a good job. He is in a limited role, but you can’t help but like his character. Anthony Mackie plays King, who is the head of the local gang and resident kingpin. Mackie is an incredible actor, but his talents seem wasted here. King is never a fully-realized character, and his scenes don’t carry the weight they should. In fact, the only stumbling part of the movie is the wrap up of King and how it is handled. I won’t spoil it, but it seems like too much of a perfect package and seems forced to fit the ending.
The Hate U Give is one of my favorite films of 2018. It is probably the most important film that will be out this year and certainly one of the most relevant. I don’t see anyone not liking this movie. Unless you have a strong bias, you have to admit the power of this film. Let’s hope it’s message rings less and less true with each passing year.
The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give is a movie that will make you take a minute and think about yourself and society. At the least, it gives us some of the best scenes of the year. At the most, it is an amazing look at the state of our society. A must see.