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

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

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.