Food plays an important role in Fruitvale Station, a newly released independent film shot in the San Francisco Bay area.
A star of the show is a special New Year’s Eve family gumbo birthday dinner for Wanda (Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role as a housekeeper in The Help).Wanda is the mother of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a young unmarried father who recently was fired for being late to his job at Farmer Joe’s grocery store.
Early in the film, as Oscar places his crab and shrimp order for the gumbo and talks with his cousin who works behind the fish counter, a young white woman (Melinda Torgersen) comes up and asks the cousin for help in frying fish.
Oscar starts to answer her question, and then calls his grandmother. Grandma Bonnie (Marjorie Shears) tells Oscar to hand his phone to the shopper, and then gives her detailed instructions. The shopper leaves happy. (She reappears later in an important context.)
This is just one example of Oscar helping a stranger. In another scene, he befriends a stray dog.
We also see Oscar as a gentle, loving father to his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal). In an early scene, Tatiana eats cereal and milk for breakfast as Oscar drinks a glass of orange juice. As Oscar prepares to take Tatiana to pre-school, he quietly slips her a bag of her favorite Gummy Bears. They are the same organic Gummy Bears that my daughter likes. I use them to decorate Hallowe’en cupcakes and cakes.
A reasonable suggestion
Later on this New Year’s Eve, the entire family gathers to prepare and consume the gumbo. After dinner, Oscar; his girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz); and other family members plan to go to San Francisco to watch the midnight fireworks.
Wanda suggests that they take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train across the bay instead of driving from their Oakland home. It’s a suggestion she later regrets.
Fruitvale Station is based on true events. A BART police officer fatally shot Oscar Grant in the back early on New Year’s morning after police responded to reports of fighting on a train. The incident occurred at the Fruitvale Station, 3401 East 12th Street in Oakland. Oscar was 22 years old.
Beyond gumbo and fine acting by an accomplished cast, Fruitvale Station is worth viewing as social commentary. It portrays a shopping list of black issues, including black men in prison, biased white police who target black victims, white perpetrators who get away, and the challenges of living in a multicultural family.
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