The shooting of Oscar Grant occurred during my senior year in college, seven BART stops away from where I was living at the time. I admit now that I didn’t pay close attention to what happened afterward, but I can say with complete certainty now that the BART line conjures up a certain hauntedness for me now that other people have probably been plagued with for four years now. This movie made it all real, again.
I don’t know how much of the story of Oscar Grant that’s portrayed in Fruitvale Station is true, but it makes for a compelling, quick, literally live-fast-die-young story. Michael B. Jordan, forever Wallace in our hearts, is an incredibly charismatic, down-to-earth guy. He alternates between his thug face and his daddy face so effortlessly and convincingly that it’s hard to get mad at him for being both, or maybe neither at all. It’s also easy to see why Sophina (Melonie Diaz) fell for him. He’s a 22-year-old with a lot of heart, and a good family behind him, lead by his mother, Wanda (Octavia Spencer).
I’m sure a lot of the plot was built up for dramatic effect. In fact, the first half of the movie was saccharine–the watchable kind, with quiet moments and beautiful lighting–but the second that day turned to night, and you were reminded of the impending doom, the sweet turned sour, and it became a countdown to the fateful moment. And yet it was compelling, exciting, horrifying all in one to watch the whole thing reenacted. I didn’t even recognize Chad Michael “Lucas Scott” Murray as Johannes Mehserle, the cop who fired the shot. It completely tears you down to see something happen and know that it’s representing an unfortunate truth. That he happened to take the BART that day, that he happened to run into a girl he met earlier, who caused his identity to be revealed, which caused a fight, which caused police officers to accuse the group of something they didn’t do, is a giant, awful misunderstanding that cost a man his life.
What an odd thing to experience someone else’s last 24 hours that Grant spent on Earth. Supposedly, Grant tried to get his job back, picked his daughter up from school, and had dinner with his family to celebrate his mother’s birthday. We’ll never know who he’d turn out to be, or what he’d choose to stand for, or how things could have been different. There is no “but” at the end of that sentence, either. This movie is not comforting. It’s a sad story with a sad ending, and if you live in a big city, you should take the time to see it. I’m sorry I didn’t see it — or truly know about it — sooner.