A Film with So Many Subplots That the Strange Fruit is Just
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The opening credits for the writer/director Kyle Schickner (Full Frontal, Rose by any other Name) film STRANGE FRUIT are eloquently beautiful camera passages down a Louisiana bayou at night, the end point being an isolated little club (the Gator) reached only by a floating raft. The mood is set for an atmospheric Southern Gothic drama: what follows is an overly complicated exploration of racism, homophobia, family dysfunction, police corruption, prejudice (racial and gender), and most important gay homophobia! Too many irons in the fire make a film that has a lot of potential come to a confusing end: too many of the subplots and motivations remain unexplained.
There is a lynching of a black gay man in the parking lot of The Gator (a gay bar where people of like minds can hide at night as long as they stay in the closet outside the bar). The mother Emma Ayers (a radiant Berlinda Tolbert) and her ne're-do-well remaining son Duane (David Raibon) are convinced the incident was a murder but the sheriff (Sam Jones) and his redneck deputies (with the exception of Deputy Conover - Jared Day) dismiss the lynching as justified because it was 'sexually motivated' and gay men deserve such an end. Emma calls the victim's childhood friend William Boyals (the fine Kent Faulcon), a succesful lawyer now in New York, to come and investigate. What William discovers upon his return to his hometown is a cast of characters that includes hateful white trash, closeted black gays afraid to defend each other, 'law enforcement' that is anything but honest, the strength and devotion of his 'aunt Emma', and the mother that disowned him when he came out of the closet to be a successsful gay man. The story proceeds to follow leads about the lynching and along the way there are other murders and lynchings that muddle the picture until the finale when the words of the Gator owner explain the happenings: 'Nothing is ever like it appears to be'.
The film is moody, atmospheric, and there are some fine performances by Faulcon, Tolbert, Raibon, Jared Day and Jones. The problems include a script that opts for generalities and clichés and once again a music score and recording system that buries a lot of the dialogue. But it is refreshing to see a story that views the black gay life in the South from the vantage of a handsome, successful, gay black man. Though overly long at 115 minutes, STRANGE FRUIT is still a film of interest for the chances it takes. Grady Harp, September 06"
Good idea, mediocre effort.
Bob Lind | Phoenix, AZ United States | 09/24/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In "Strange Fruit" (2004), William Boyles well remembers the racial bigotry and homophobia rampant in his home town in rural Louisiana. As an African American gay man, he got out of there as soon as he could, and is today a successful attorney in New York City. But when a call comes from the mother of his best boyhood friend, saying that her son had been lynched in an obvious hate crime which the local sheriff refuses to pursue, he catches the next plane back there to help. He immediately butts heads with the redneck, manipulative sheriff, and faces an atmosphere where not "making waves" is far more important to live peacefully, rather than pursue concepts like fairness and justice. Bullying the sheriff into providing copies of his files on the case, amd aided by the dead man's brother and grieving mother, Boyles begins his own investigation into the murder, putting at risk his own life and anyone else who cooperates with him.
The well-intentioned and ambitious screenplay (written and directed by Kyle Schickner) unfortunately doesn't mesh well with a small budget indie work shot directly on video. With the exception of the actors who played Boyles (Kent Faulcon) and his friend's mother (Berlinda Tolbert, who 25 years ago played the daughter on "The Jeffersons"), the acting is mediocre at best, and the sheriff's deputies are written as if stereotypical cartoon characters. The technical aspects are not impressive, and the sound editing is awful (volume varies greatly between characters in a scene, or from scene to scene, and background music that drowns out dialogue.) Lots of pointless, nonproductive scenes, which should have been trimmed to cut the film below its 115 minutes (The DVD incorrectly lists it as 88 minutes), and the ending is far too abrupt, leaving unresolved plot points. Would be a 2-star, but I give it a bonus for tackling a tough subject, as well as commendable acting by Faulcon and Tolbert. Three stars out of five. DVD includes deleted scenes (I would have added several!), audition tapes and director commentary."
Strange Fruit?....Strange Period!
Randall R. Jupiter | Upper Marlboro, MD | 03/27/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Great idea for a plot but, the acting was weak and the the actions taken to solve the case unbelievable."
Broderick C. Daniels | Fayetteville AR | 01/01/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good movie. It's not great, due to some minor flaws but nothing that can't be overcome. I assume they didn't have the budget to make the movie more appealing but I don't think this movie as a waste of time. I think they had some pretty good actors in it. I really liked the acting by Belinda Tolbert and David Raibon. The star of the show wasn't bad either. I just think there were a lot of corners cut on this one. Sorry. That's my opinion."