Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover, Machine Gun Kelly
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood
My first reaction, and first Facebook status following Beyond The Lights was that Beyond The Lights is better than it has any right to be. Lets face it, it’s a hip hop drama with a predominantly African American cast. If we could list all the movies that fall under that category, you’d wind up with a sad list. Seriously. Google “Hip Hop Movies” and scroll through that list at the top. Sure, there are a few undisputed gems, like 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow, but for every one of those, there’s another 10 films you didn’t even know they made. Movies that look so awful, they don’t even warrant having decent posters.
Beyond The Lights is a fantastic addition to the smaller circle of “really good hip hop movies”. It features two star making turns from Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who had quite a year last year, also getting acclaim for Belle), and Nate Parker. I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more from both actors in the future, as they’re both incredibly talented and current actors. Nate especially is like a breath of fresh air. He reminds me of Denzel Washington when his career first started. Nate can do anything if Hollywood casting agents just give him a chance.
I believe the film drew an immediate comparison to The Bodyguard, but it really isn’t anything like that. It’s not a copy of a movie, it stands on its own. The film centers around a pop star, Noni (Mbatha-Raw) who is about to make it big, but has an emotional breakdown and almost kills herself, but is saved by a young police officer (Parker). He’s a really REALLY good guy, and is worried about her well being. She needs a good guy in her life, so eventually they become an item. The relationship changes Noni and gives her the strength to be the artist she’s always wanted to be, but was too afraid to go after.
Beyond The Lights is currently on Netflix streaming, so you have no excuse now. If you were worried that it would be a “black movie”, it’s not. It’s not a culturally specific or racially specific film. There are themes and ideas that go so far beyond race, and the stars give two really fantastic performances. I feel bad when a good film flies under the radar, and this one certainly did.
FINAL GRADE: A