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Queen and Slim

QUEEN & SLIM is the rare film that feels both important and super cool.

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Director Melina Matsoukas' debut film, QUEEN & SLIM, has an infectious and exciting urgency to it -- a kind of potent cinematic energy that is all too often missing from indie cinema these days. It tells the story of an unnamed couple, one a fledgling lawyer played by Jodi Turner-Smith (TV's NIGHTFLYERS and THE LAST SHIP), the other a mild-mannered young man played by Daniel Kaluuya (GET OUT), whose first date ends with a dead police officer. Not wanting to end up as property of the state, the couple decides that their only option is to skip town and go on the lam. Our "black Bonnie and Clyde" quickly become a viral sensation and reluctantly end up as beacons of revolutionary hope for a nation of people still reeling from too many deaths at the hands of the police.

Matsoukas has spent over ten years years working behind the camera on high-profile music videos for the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna, and her confidence behind the camera is clearly seen in QUEEN & SLIM's abundant visual style and kinetic editing. In what is essentially a strong addition to the road movie genre, the film is packed with graceful montages, playful wardrobe and production design and, as you'd expect, plenty of great music (the score is provided by Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange fame).

The film also has the benefit of a screenplay by Lena Waithe (she shares a story credit with, oddly enough, the controversial author James Frey). Waithe is a multi-hyphenate artist who's been building up quite the resume since winning an Emmy award for an episode of the Netflix series MASTER OF NONE. Together, Waithe and Matsoukas make the film's many concerns about racial injustice feel authentic and heartfelt. We can tell they love these characters and they refrain from suggesting that there are any easy answers to the problems that plague the US justice system.

While some of the dialogue lands awkwardly from time to time, such minor grievances can be forgiven due to how righteously ambitious the film turns out to be. QUEEN & SLIM is the rare film that feels both important and super cool.

Sean Erickson

Credits

Original title: Queen and Slim
USA 2019, 132 min
Genre: Drama, Crime Drama
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Author: James Frey, Lena Waithe
Montage: Pete Beaudreau
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Chloë Sevigny, Sturgill Simpson
FSK: 12
Release: 09.01.2020

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