Yes, classic is what I said. If you grew up in, not only Atlanta, but in the South in general, this movie felt like home. It was hot. We all at the pool trying to cool down but to no avail. Us girls are trying our best to look good at all times because everyone is out and you never know if you’ll run into your crush or a frenemy. Someone if throwing a wild party at their parents’ house while they’re out of town. Subsequently, the house is destroyed. (We’ll definitely talk about House Party in another post.) And we all have that one friend from New York with the thick accent that complaints about the South and how it was in New York. We get it, b! This ain’t New York.
Anyway, this movie had all of that. Dope boys, skating, the rich and the poor and ignorance. I want to take this time to shoutout to Jason Weaver who played Teddy who was a mess from the beginning of the movie to the end. Exhibit A is below.
ATL is loosely based on the lives of Dallas Austin and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, of the legendary group TLC, growing up in their hometown. A couple themes jumped out at me as I continued to watch this film over the years. One was pretending. There is a lot of pretending from various characters in this movie. New New was pretending to be less than she was to be accepted by her friends, despite her parents wishes. Esquire pretended to be, and really wanted to be, someone who was aristocratic. He figured that would get him where he wanted to be. Ant pretended to be a dope boy, which almost costed him his life.
Speaking of Ant, another theme was survival. Ant decided to sell dope because of peer pressure and wanting a better life for his family. He didn’t want to continue to clean office buildings for the rest of his life. He didn’t want to go to school and go to college. He was one of those people who didn’t really believe that there was better for him. He didn’t see anyone come from where he comes from and make it any farther than he was at the present moment in life. Personally, I can understand that. We all compare our lives to others, and in some cases, we don’t see ourselves getting to the next level in our lives.
Rashad was different. He had secret dreams. He didn’t really hide his talents. He just didn’t tell anyone but he knew there was something better. Unlike his brother, he knew what was out there. He knew he could sell dope and make a lot of money but that wasn’t something he was willing to do because he knew what the outcome could be. Ant soon figured that out too.
Although, I loathe a perfect ending, the ending to this movie was more hopeful than perfect. New New got to go to Spelman, Esquire got to go to college and Rashad got to showcase his talents in the same newspapers he and his uncle read at the table back home. Brooklyn and Teddy did stuff too. LOL.
ATL was one of those black films where I know what’s going to happen but I don’t want to see it happen. I don’t want to see Ant almost die in a parking lot. I don’t want to see Esquire and Rashad not be friends and not skate together. He told that man he didn’t even want to skate with him! You know how mad you have to be for that!
The film, to me, in shot in a kind of unfinished, crude sort of way that adds to the struggle they’re trying to portray in the film. I can feel the humidity (also because I live in the South. I know what that is like.), I can feel the bumps in the road as we ride in the backseat of Rashad’s car and I can feel the pain New New felt when Rashad ripped her necklace off her neck. That was an intense scene and I know someone reading this right now tried that same move. I guarantee it didn’t go the same way.
I want to end this post with one of my favorite scenes from the movie and I will tell you why this is one of my favorite scenes. I’m 57 in my mind and “Southern Girl” is one of my theme songs in my head, especially in the summertime. It’s a classic song and I applaud whoever decided to play this song under the girls walking through the crowd at the pool. It does not get any better. Also, we, as women, HAVE ALL DONE THIS with some song playing in our heads.