Our Song

"OK"

Our Song Review


Our Song never struck me as being the greatest title for a movie. It brings to mind some weepy tearjerker with an A-list diva/actress dying of terminal cancer while her nursemaid looks on, wiping away a brittle tear. Rest assured, this movie is far more substantial than the banal Hollywood weepie. Jim McKay's indie follow-up to Girls Town is another socially aware portrait of adolescence over a long, hot summer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Three close friends, Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez) and Jocelyn (Anna Simpson), listen to their favorite song on the radio ("Ooh, child... things are gonna get easier... we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun") and wonder what the future has in store. As they go through their routines of shoplifting, flirting, grabbing a slice, or making plans to catch a movie, their relationships inevitably change as young friendships always do. McKay is well serviced by superb cinematographer Jim Denault (Boys Don't Cry), who knows how to frame subtle moments with unobtrusive grace.

Clearly going for realism, McKay's script struggles to have it both ways. Blessed with young actors who give unforced, natural performances, they're stuck in after school special scenarios like a surprise pregnancy or selfishly turning your back on your friends. No matter how many hand-held shots are tossed in, there's too much emphasis on dramatic structure. A tragic third act suicide (predicted by the three kids in advance, but not appearing in the way you might expect) reveals the writer's hand, breaking the illusion that we're bearing witness to reality. This is a movie.

Also, a slap on the wrist for McKay and his editor Alex Hall for falling into that annoying Dancer in the Dark syndrome of presenting a dance/musical performance in distracting fragments. The three girls are part of the Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band, an amazing ensemble of urban kids who bring bravado and panache to their hardcore drum and brass magic. They don't just play music, they live it, blasting off with their bodies atwirl as they march down Flatbush Avenue. It's a glorious sight, but we're never given enough time to take it in.

The absence of master shots and infuriating cuts every four seconds never allow the viewer ample opportunity to sit back and enjoy the performance. Too many cinema tricks get in the way. In Robert Altman's The Player, Fred Ward bitches about how movies have become simply "cut, cut, cut", referring to studio released music video claptrap like Armageddon and Con Air. Our Song proves that mentality has trickled down into the indie circuit as well. McKay seems to have had so much good material to choose from that he decided to include everything. C'mon, man -- I'm with you! I like your style! Give me a handful of your meaningful images, and save the rest for the DVD specials!

For all that bitching, how many flicks do you see which dwell on participation in a marching band? Or actually have honest-to-goodness communication between parents and children where one isn't neatly pigeonholed as the bad guy? How about showing urban blacks and Latinos who aren't capping each other? McKay's Our Song is good enough that you wish it were stronger. Maybe he'll go back and make a keen, observational documentary about the band -- I just hope he'll hang back a little and trust his admirable performers to do some of the work for him.

They sing their song.



Our Song

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 18th April 2001

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Diana E. Williams

Starring: as Lanisha Brown, as Maria Hernandez, as Joycelyn Clifton

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.