By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Audiences may recall Amandla Stenberg
in the movies, “The Darkest Minds” (2018), “Everything, Everything” (2017) and even 2012’s “The Hunger Games.”
While Stenberg certainly brought much to those roles, they pale in comparison to her performance in the new movie, “The Hate U Give.”
This timely, drama from director George Tillman, Jr. (“Mudbound” and “Notorious”) is both heart-breaking and inspiring. And while the supporting cast is stellar, it’s Stenberg who remarkably carries much of the film from beginning to end.
“The Hate U Give” is based on Angie Thomas’
young-adult novel of the same name and was adapted by the late, talented screenwriter Audrey Wells (“A Dog’s Purpose” and “Under the Tuscan Sun”) who died on October 4, 2018.
In “The Hate U Give,” Stenberg plays Starr Carter, an outgoing 16-year-old living with her family in a crime infested neighborhood.
Starr’s parents, Lisa and Maverick (Regina Hall, “Girls Trip” and Russell Hornsby (“Creed II” and “Fences”) want the best for Starr and her two younger brothers, Seven (Lamar Johnson, upcoming, “Native Son”) and Sekani (TJ Wright, TV’s “MacGyver”).
Opportunities are limited in their community. The odds are automatically stacked against them and the chance of them making it out alive grows bleaker by the day. That’s why Starr’s mother insists that she attend Williamson, a predominately white prep school. Starr will get a better education and won’t have to deal with violence at every turn.
But, for Starr, she’s forced to deal with a dual identity and it isn’t easy. She must endure a disturbing scenario that plays out daily mainly at the hands of her so called best friend Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter, TV’s “Milo Murphy’s Law”).
Starr’s father, Maverick, (the outstanding Hornsby) has given his kids “The Talk” about what to do when approached by a police officer. The talk involves part of his Black Panther’s 10-point program and entails doing whatever the cops ask if you’re pulled over during a routine traffic stop.
While at school, Starr works overtime to fit in among her rich, white classmates, who “don’t see color,” yet in so many ways make disturbing racial comments toward her.
Compounding the issue for Starr is her white boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa, TV’s “Riverdale”) who does seem to truly love her. Then across town is Starr’s long-time friend and super cute crush, Khalil (Algee Smith, “Detroit” and TV’s “The Bobby Brown Story”).
Their brief time together is what makes “The Hate U Give” soar. One night while driving home from a party, Starr and Khalil are pulled over by the police. Starr demands that Chris comply and do whatever he’s told.
But, Chris is angered that this white cop (Drew Starkey, “Love Simon” and “Scream: The TV Series”) detained him for no apparent reason other than driving while black. His tone and questions toward the officer only escalate the situation. Then when Chris reaches for a hair bush on the front seat after being told to place his hands on the car and not move, it doesn’t end well for him.
Now, Starr is caught in a media firestorm. She’s being asked within members of her community, along with activist April Ofrah (Issa Rae, TV’s “Insecure”) to be the voice for change and tell the world what she witnessed because Black Lives Matter.
Her stance comes with a hefty price. The neighborhood drug dealer, King (The outstanding Anthony Mackie, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Detroit”) wants to silence Starr and goes so far to threaten her family because Khalil was dealing drugs for him.
There are so many movingl and insightful layers that director George Tillman Jr. piles on in “The Hate U Give”--including a gripping and head shaking scene with Common who plays a cop and Starr’s uncle. Yet it, along with the rest of the film, always rings true and never feels contrived.
“The Hate U Give” is powerful and timely. It’s a must-see.
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Check Out This Trailer For "THE HATE U GIVE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.