MOVIE REVIEW: “BEYOND THE LIGHTS”


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It’s not often that I go to the movies. Matter of fact, I don’t go to the movies at ALL anymore because 1) There’s no good movies I’d want to go see and 2) On top of all that, it costs too much! I shouldn’t have to decide whether to eat for the week OR go to the movies. Nah, I’m good. BUT last Tuesday, I won two free movie passes in an email from ReelBlack to see the screening of Beyond the Lights before it was released in theaters everywhere that Friday and so, I went with my dear Elder, Baba Ogun at the Pearl Theater on Broad & Oxford. (I actually saw it TWICE because I went to see again on Saturday when I went with my King). 😉 ❤

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Brief Plot Summary

Beyond the Lights is a film by Gina Prince-Bythewood (writer and director of Love and Basketball), that gives us a REALISTIC and RAW glimpse of what it’s like to be a female pop star on the rise, all the levels of intense pressures that come along with fame, and even the infamous shade of the music industry. From the over-sexualizing of women (particularly women of COLOR) to the “trapped in contract” situation reminiscent of what’s known to us in real life as the “360 deal,” these experiences through the eyes of the main character Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) made me quickly shift my own perspective of celebrities, including those who I’ve thrown shade at in the past myself.

This film offers a small twist of the classic love story of “damsel-in-distress” and a big, strong, fine hunk of a man swooping in to save the day, this time in the form of young police officer and rising politician, Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker). Both living under their own brand of stress and trying so hard to live up to the expectations of everyone around them, Noni and Kaz both find a kind of solace and peace in each other’s presence. They find out soon after meeting that they can truly “see” one another, and with that….a warm blossoming of feelings come into play.

But in the midst of all this, can and will Noni ever be able open her heart and follow her voice both onstage and off, or will she be just another industry puppet on strings forever drowning in the noise of the world?

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Rating (Out of 5 Stars) 4 Stars

**WARNING!**SPOILER ALERT!**WARNING!**SPOILER ALERT!** 

Review

All in all, Ms. Bythewood and her crew executed this film with sheer excellence, and I can really appreciate the symbolism used throughout the movie, in particular, Noni’s ever-racy gear topped with “fashionable” gold cuffs and chains all over her body representing her “slavery” to the music industry and circumstances in her life.

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PROS

Even though the entire movie was breathtaking and eye-opening in general, there are two specific scenes that stood out to me the most: what I’ll just call the Balcony Scene and the Runaway Lovers Scene. In the Balcony Scene Kaz, who was merely there at the hotel to guard Noni’s door found himself playing the hero as he raced inside the hotel room in response to Macy Jean’s (Noni’s mother; Minnie Driver) screams as she watched her daughter sitting quietly on the ledge of the balcony railing, ready to give up on everything around her. This is when Noni and Kaz first  interact with each other. There’s just something so powerful about the fact that a mere stranger managed to reach the hidden, hurting Noni Jean behind the glamorous, rising pop star mask within mere SECONDS of calling out to her.

On the flip side, I view the Runaway Lovers Scene in contrast to the Balcony Scene. After a humiliating and disastrous showdown at the BET Awards in front of millions of viewers worldwide, Noni and Kaz run off together to get away from the media circus frenzy that ensued right after the awards show. Taking refuge in a beautiful, earthy, tranquil spot in Mexico, Noni and Kaz’s relationship reaches a turning point.

These are honestly exchanges you’ll have to see on the screen and experience for yourself to TRULY appreciate the Energy of these particular scenes. ❤

CONS

As much as I absolutely LOVED this movie, appreciated the message and lessons this movie taught, having watched it TWICE, I DID notice a quite a few “loose ends” and other things that I thought took away from the movie a little bit. One is the issue of  race. Seeing as the character of Noni Jean is biracial (half-white, half-black), I wish a little bit more could’ve been covered in that aspect. Like, tying in with all the pressures that the music industry puts on women, for BLACK women or women of COLOR in particular, there is an extreme emphasis placed on “lightskinned” and “mixed” women as being the Ideal Woman if one wanted to go anywhere near what’s to be considered a Black Woman. On the same note, we don’t really get much about Macy Jean and her background other than that ONE SCENE where she briefly opens up to Noni about how she came to be. I found it particularly interesting that Macy Jean called Noni a “black baby” instead of a “mixed,” “biracial,” or even (dare I say it) a “mulatto” baby. Interesting choice of words, that’s all. There are other examples that could be categorized under the discussion of race but the depths I wish to go on this goes beyond this review, so…I’ll save that for another day.

One other thing that somewhat bothered me was how Kaz never really said much. As much as I felt the chemistry between the two, I felt like Noni was the one who MADE each scene and Kaz was more of the “stationary reactor.” (The one scene that irked me the most was when Kaz threw his bracelet in the sea after his rift with Noni. I think given the circumstances, THAT was a bit extreme). For a such a firm, righteous, moral man who was a policeman and upcoming politician who lived by inspiring quotations Scarecrow-from-The-Wiz-like…Kaz was a man of little words. Maybe it was part of his character, but if that was the case, I don’t think that translated very well into the movie, which may or may not say something about Nate Parker’s acting in this role. Either way, that part of Kaz’s demeanor made absolutely no sense to me.

Conclusion

Beyond the Lights is DEFINITELY worth the time and money to go see. It inspired ME even more as an artist and as a person. NOT TO MENTION…thanks to this movie, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Nina Simone. The end result of having one specific song of hers on repeat as I rode the bus the next day is….an idea for a new painting! I won’t tell you what it is yet but…yes. This is ALL a chain reaction from seeing this film. So go check it out! You won’t regret it. You’ll gain insight, be inspired, not to mention, feel good about supporting a BLACK INDEPENDENT FILM. ❤

If you’ve already seen it, feel free to share YOUR thoughts and reviews below in the comments section. I’d love to have a discussion with you about it! 😉

~SOULar Lioness XOXO

P.S., If you’re interested in the Beyond the Lights Soundtrack, it’s from Relativity Music Group and you can download it here on Amazon or iTunes.

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