Advanced screenings of Beyond the Lights have been going on in various places across the U.S. and at film festivals across the globe.  I had a chance to catch an advanced preview in Nashville, at Regal Hollywood on 11.5.14 that followed with a Q&A session with Writer/Director, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Actor Nate Parker.

Beyond, Movie Poster

 

The line was almost out the door as people waited to be seated for the Nashville advanced screening of Beyond The Lights. VIP seating as well as preferred seating for Fisk college students was reserved and those people were seated first.

Finding a seat for the movie was a little difficult given the amount of tickets released and the amount of people who showed up for the screening.   It was packed elbow to elbow by the time the lights dimmed for the film, which was a little uncomfortable as a film lover.   Especially since the guy next to me was eating a spicy and weird smelling burrito from Taco Bell :/

My Thoughts About The Film – The Pros

Overall, I thought the film was good.  It’s refreshing to see black romance play out on the big screen.  It’s also great to have variety when it comes to the portrayal of black people in film.    I thought the acting was very good and the soundtrack was excellent.

If you saw Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance in the British period-drama Belle, you’re going to have to put that aside and out of mind for Beyond the Lights.  Gugu switches it up this time to give a very convincing portrayal of the troubled and over sexualized pop star or video vixen, in her role as Noni Jean.   The dynamic of Noni’s relationship with her mother, played by Minnie Driver, really shed some light on her self-esteem and how she viewed her life as the film progressed.   It really made you think about exactly what some people give up or put away as they work hard to pursue careers in the entertainment and music industries.  I also think the director did a great job of showing the audience how lonely life can be as a super celebrity and what some of them can experience in their daily lives.

Minnie Drive and young Noni

I thought Minnie Driver did an excellent job of portraying the overbearing, success driven, fame hungry mother, who would set all ethics and morals aside to make sure her daughter stayed in the limelight and at the center of everyone’s attention. Her character was very business savvy, cold and determined, which I felt really played out well on the screen.  She was very convincing.

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I loved the energy and relationship between Nate Parker’s character, Kaz and Danny Glover’s character, Captain Nicol, who was Kaz’s father in the film.   It’s very nice to see roles where the black father is presented as a dedicated presence involved in his son’s life.  Plus it showed the idea of Kaz following in his fathers footsteps.

 

What I Didn’t Like – The Cons

I guess I’m a little tired of the whole black female with bad behavior “celebrity” portrayal.  I mean, it’s in our faces everyday already, whether on social media or reality TV, we are bombarded with viral imagery of black celebrities gone bad or TMZ shoving gossip down our throats with their “expose’s” of black celebs.

I would love to see more roles with black females painted in a better light…or even better, in clusters of positive roles.   With all the black women in the world out there working hard as professionals and still trying to make that love connection, why the portrayal of the damsel in distress, Nicki Minaj-esque vixen, on the edge of her life? I’m just sayin.

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I know, it makes things more interesting and can lead to some pretty entertaining scenes, but I guess then it makes me think that our imaginations of the young black female, can only go so far.

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Don’t get me wrong.   There was absolutely nothing wrong with the acting in Beyond The Lights.  The cast was phenomenal and everyone played their roles with passion and skill.  I liked the film, I just though the main character could have had a little more depth to her, or maybe if I saw her depth evolve earlier in the movie, I probably wouldn’t feel as deeply about this as I do.  I had to remember that her character was a child brought up in the music industry and in the spotlight, so much of her true personality would never show to the rest of the world.  But it’s in those quiet moments where she’s alone with the leading man, that make me question whether or not the romance between the two seems real.   Like could this really happen in real life?  The jury is still out on that.  But there’s no mistaking the imagery of the loose woman, party girl, spoiled brat or media whore that I saw throughout most of the film sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

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Then there’s the mama pimp and borderline domestic violence of the ex-boyfriend thrown in there.  It isn’t until the end that we really get to see Noni’s light, who she really is and what really motivates her. I’m just a little disappointed as a woman and a movie lover that we didn’t get to see peeks of the “little girl inside” earlier on in the film.

I had to try my best not to compare this film to the director’s other triumph’s as I watched, but it was very hard.  This was no Love and Basketball and it sure doesn’t compare to the remarkable characters and masterful beauty of Secret Life of Bees. To judge this movie totally as an island away from those films, I’d have to say it is still a good romantic film worth watching and supporting on opening night.

I give this film a

B+

 

Photos from Nashville Q&A with Director, Gina Prince Bythewood and Actor Nate Parker

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 Are you gonna hit the theaters to watch Beyond the Lights?

 

 

 

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Founder, Editor-in-Chief of Women's Lifestyle Blog, Naturally Stellar | Beauty Writer and Content Creator | I left corporate life 7+ years ago, to pursue my goal of becoming a writer. Boom!! I did that! Now I'm an accomplished writer and boss babe running a successful blog business. You should hire me! #RockStarMoms
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