The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give is a teen drama based off the award winning book by Angie Thomas (2017) and directed by George Tillman, Jr. It’s a race based tale set in the fictional town of Garden Heights, telling the story of a young girl named Starr. After a party, Starr witnesses the shooting of her best friend, Khali, at the hands of a white police officer, which causes an uproar in the Black community. A powerful stirring story about the differences in people, and how incidents can cause real disarray. The Hate U Give wears its themes heavily on its shoulder, but succeeds anyway, due to its characters. Specifically, there is a terrific lead performance by Amandla Stenberg.
The Hate U Give is narrated by the lead character, Starr Carter (Stenberg), who describes her life in very passionate ways. One of the things I liked about this narration is how unforced it seems. It’s as if you can feel every word and energy coming out of her mouth. It moves the story along and allows the audience to take in the situations that are happening on the screen. In many ways, as to be expected, it’s basically a guiding hand.
Amandla Stenberg has not been an actress who has exactly been on my radar, but I am familiar with her (Hunger Games, 2012). Based off her performance in this film, she’s now an actress to follow into the future. Starr is a compelling protagonist, who has to go through various stages of grief, and then eventual optimism, all of which she pulls off with flying colors. It helps that the entire film is focused on her and her alone. I’m not sure if it’s the character or the actress that makes her performance so engaging, but I really liked it.
Stenberg is also helped by a strong supporting cast. Regina Hall is impressive as her struggling, but understanding mother. Russell Hornsby is her lopsided, struggling, and complicated dad. Anthony Mackie plays a drug lord, who is constantly at odds with her family. I was actually quite impressed at how subtly menacing Mackie managed to pull off his role. He’s just always lurking around in the background, waiting for the right moment to strike. For this kind of teen drama, his role is very effective.
While the film’s message is powerful and effective, there are character consequences that left me scratching my head to think things over. I wasn’t sure if Starr should have done what she did at certain points in the film. The way they approached the question of race, however, certainly wasn’t downplayed. The themes in this movie will move you and it is a very fine solid piece of filmmaking and storytelling. One can only hope for a brighter future.
Now playing in Hanover at The Nugget Theater, Monday - Friday at 6:50 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 1:10, 3:50, and 6:50 PM.