Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Fruitvale Station: Fruitless

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 24, 2013

Oscar Grant was shot in the back by a BART officer in the early hours of January 1, 2009. The shooting was documented by cell phones, giving us vivid details of a horrifying event. The movie starts there and works backwards by one day, showing us how Mr. Grant lived and loved his girlfriend, his daughter, his mother, his brother and his sister. We see him trying to please these people in his life, while at the same time, struggling to survive, with little financial resources, and seemingly little tenacity to hold down a steady job. As I watched the film, I felt manipulated, rather than seduced. His ending was tragic, as was his life. With my oedipal lens, I sensed that Ryan Coogler, the writer and director, wanted the audience to feel that because of his strong attachment to his mother, he was trying to turn his life around. There is one scene which almost captured this deep motivation, but it failed. The character of Oscar felt conflicted by his relationship with his mom, but this conflict was poorly illustrated, leaving me, the audience member, to feel shallow, hardly connected with Oscar. Consequently, and in sharp contrast to “The Way, Way Back” I did not care about the main character, even though at the same time, I wanted to care. I wanted that feeling in which I was outraged that this man’s life was cut short, leaving a turn-around story unfinished. Instead, I felt nothing. So, I conclude, as the title of this post suggests, ‘Fruitvale’ was fruitless.

2 Responses to “Fruitvale Station: Fruitless”

  1. Jon said

    Sadly, I agree completely with your reaction and analysis of this film. “Manipulated, rather than seduced,” too well describes my reaction as well. As portrayed, Oscar Grant was a tragic character. He was in a gentle form a purgatory made more hellish be each of the many mistakes that he made. He is also portrayed as having made some small noble acts as well. However, the bad karma he has created is so overwhelming, it becomes inescapable.

    Like you, Shirah, I wanted to care, but also found I could not. Could a film be made that would allow me to care? Most probably. What would have to change from this film? How to seduce rather than manipulate? Alas, unfortunately, I have no answer. Thus the experience of the film was disappointing, barren, and, yes, fruitless.

    • I think the key to seduction is identification. The filmmakers and the actor have to make us relate to the character in a way in which we see him as a member of our family. The sense of common humanity has to shine through his heinous behaviors. Ryan Coogler tried, but failed. Thanks for your comments.

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