Mix Movie Review: 'The Hate U Give'

★★★ out of ★★★★

October 12, 2018

Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

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Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) was taught by her father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) early on to be cautious if ever pulled over by the police. As a black man, her father's own scrapes with the law had taught him that. And witnessing one of her best friends killed in front of her eyes in the lower socioeconmic Garden Heights neighborhood prompted her parents to send her and her brothers to a private school, further avoiding the troubles to be encountered in Garden Heights, particularly those of drugs and gun violence.

Seeing herself as displaying two separate personalities, one with her friends from the neighborhood and a differerent one with her friends from school, Starr is walking a tricky balancing act. That all comes to a sudden crash when she attends a party in the neighborhood and runs into another one of her childhood friends, and her first crush, Khalil (Alage Smith).

Gun violence erupts at the party and he takes her away, but they are soon pulled over by a white cop. When Khalil doesn't listen to the officer's orders and reaches for a hairbrush inside the car, he is shot and killed when the officer mistakes it for a gun.

As the sole witness to the killing, Starr is put in a place where she has to reevaluate everything she's ever believed.

Based on a Young Adult novel of the same name, the script by Audrey Wells (who sadly passed away from cancer a day before the film opened in limited release) seems as if it is trying to incorprate every subplot of the novel, at times becoming slightly confusing.

As Starr's uncle Carlos, a police officer himself, rapper turned actor Common has a wonderful scene with Stenberg where the differences in how a cop reacts when pulling over a white man, as compared to a black man, are strongly illustrated. 

The Hate U Give explores a lot of territory, never completely laying blame in one area. There are a lot of things that need to change in order for the problem of police brutality, as well as the problems of drugs and gun violence in the urban neighborhoods, to be remedied. And the film keeps the dialogue open.

With a running hour of over two hours, it seems like the film could have easily been tightened, but as a conversation starter for some very serious issues, The Hate U Give may just be the film to get young audiences talking, and doing something to make a change. 

The Good: The performances of Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Common, and particularly young Amandla Stenberg are outstanding. 

The Bad: Great acting and genuine performances are at times upstaged by a messy script. 

Final Word: See The Hate U Give for the acting and the message, but be prepared for an overlong drama. 

Starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Common. Directed by George Tillman Jr. Running Time: 2 hr 12 minutes. 

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violent content, drug material and language.