First off, I love anything with a Pac reference. Second, I was right. I’m angry so angry, in fact, I was about to cuss some people out in the theater who kept talking. But I digress. I had so many options and yet I picked this movie to see while on vacation. No idea why.
Here are some disclaimers. If you are prone to crying, beware of this film. I cried like three times and I don’t even like to cry. If you don’t think Black Lives Matter, don’t go see this film and be a better person. Damn. Again, you will cry and also someone dies. Not a spoiler because that’s the main event in the film. Now let’s move on.
We’ll start with the quote, “Being black is a priviledge” said by Starr’s dad (played by Russell Hornsby who was one of my favorite dads in Lincoln Heights). That’s it. I didn’t have anything else. I just agree with the quote.
Also, there are Harry Potter references in this movie! Loved it. Plus, her dad seems to think that Harry Potter was showing kids gang culture. You know, they have house colors, they ride for their own…we’ll have to ask Jo about that.
So listen, this is a powerful film that I think should be shown to all kids nowadays. Police shootings are unfortunately becoming a norm. Hell, school shootings are becoming a norm. But no one knows how to deal with all the anger and pain that comes with these events. This film tackles that struggle. That’s why I love it. Also, there was a beautiful reference to the iconic photo of a man throwing tear gas back at officers. (See picture below). There was also the hilarious voicemail she got from her momma (played by Regina Hall) that sounded like my momma left the message.
Why name the post “Thug Life”? Well not only do I love Tupac, the director apparently does too. THUG LIFE is an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F’s Everybody”. Never knew that was a thing and I applaud this movie for giving me that.
To recap the synopsis of this film, Starr Carter is a Garden Heights resident, a predominantly black neighborhood, who goes to a predominantly white private school. Starr is effected by what we call code switching. In Garden Heights, she’s the Black Starr, and in school, she’s the White Starr (Starr version 2 as she says). A lot of black kids deal with this. Example? Issa Rae who also stars in this film. That’s where we get Awkward Black Girl and Insecure from. Her experiences with this aspect of her life are the basis of those shows.
Amandla Stenberg, who plays Starr, always chooses roles that not only challenge her but also challenge the state of the world, so to speak. I love her and I hope she was able to bounce back after this role because you can tell when you watch this film that this role took a lot out of her. Starr, in the beginning, was just getting by but still felt she had to be two different people. Then, she witnesses her friend be shot and killed in front of her, and for the rest of the film, she is both scared and angry. In addition, the film does a great job of juggling your emotions. For example, there is the scene after prom where Starr’s dad, who believes in everything black including living his life by the Black Panther’s ten point program, finds out that she not only has a boyfriend but that that boyfriend is white. Funny stuff but then after the tender moment, a bullet rips through the wall. Yup, the film does that like all the time. You give them an inch and they take your soul.
A very important takeaway from this film…understanding both sides. Starr’s uncle (played by Common) just so happens to be a cop. Her father is an ex-drug dealer and did a stint in prison. Carlos is Maverick’s (Starr’s dad’s name) brother-in-law and they don’t always agree on the way of the world but the conversation between Starr and her uncle was needed. After the King Lords shot into Starr’s house, the family, except Maverick and her half brother Seven, stay in a real nice neighborhood with their uncle. Starr and Uncle Carlos have the conversation that black people do not want to hear, the perspective of a cop. Officers, day in and day out, have chosen a dangerous job to have, to protect and serve basically by any means necessary. Carlos explains that beautifully to Starr and I think it’s a conversation many of us should allow to happen more often than we do.
Should you go see this film?
Yup and take a teenager. They need something they can learn from.
Expect to cry, be angry and come out with a better understanding of what it means to be human nowadays.