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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Talk to Me

    The film “Talk to Me” (director Kasi Lemmons) started out on a high note both literally and figuratively. After all, who can resist the smooth voice of James Brown belting out one of his feet-tapping, finger-snapping songs in the opening scenes? A song reminiscent of the era in which it was bred, and in which “Talk to Me” takes place: the ever-changing, tumultuous and controversial 1960’s America. Based on the true-life story of Washington D.C.’s disc jockey Ralph “Petey” Greene (Don Cheadle), Lemmon’s film gets most of its credit from the gyrating, jive-talking, smooth walking performance of Don Cheadle, who is able to infuse the memory of Greene with an electric energy and fiery bluntness. The liveliness that Cheadle brings to the screen essentially saves the film through and through (even towards the very end of the film, where Lemmons seems to meander aimlessly, unsure of where she’s ending up, bringing her audience reluctantly along with her). It is through a brief encounter with Dewey (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who works for one of the local Washington radio stations, where Petey Greene hopes to land a job as a disc jockey after being released from prison. Although referred to as a “miscreant” by a disgusted and disapproving Dewey, Greene nevertheless sashays into Dewey’s radio headquarters, years later, determined to land a job. Although initially bumping heads from the start, Dewey begins to recognize and appreciate Greene’s talents as a disc jockey, most notably that of Greene’s refusal to mince words and to “tell it like it is”, as he puffs away on his endless supply of cigarettes. A talent that eventually results in Greene having a wide fan base with an overall appreciation for Petey’s ability to speak directly and without hesitation on sensitive issues, such as race. It is Petey who helps to soothe a nation that is horrified at the news of the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior, and it is Petey who helps expose and heal the dark wounds of a world that still quietly fester and bleed. Petey’s direct (and oftentimes blunt) beliefs and observations on tension-filled topics were a refreshing change of pace for his listeners, as they were used to having radio announcers tiptoe around controversial issues or delicately walk on eggshells. It is Petey who spoke for the people who were afraid to speak or who didn’t know how to put their thoughts into words. As Dewey sums up their odd partnership and need for one another: “I need you to say the things I’m afraid to say. You need me to do the things you’re afraid to do”. Although Cheadle’s performance was phenomenal, the plotline of Lemmon’s film was somewhat artificial and lacking, and seemed to coast by more on stereotypes (flashy, retro clothing and mutton-chop sideburns) and to drag its feet towards the end, confusedly focusing on Dewey’s life story, as opposed to addressing Greene’s downward spiral, which was instead left on the sidelines.

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