Movie Reviews

Paul’s Review Of “Selma” (2014) – Documentary Or Drama?

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Race privileges and civil rights are a hard topic to discuss, especially in this day-and-age.

Where I’ve lived and the way I have grown up, race is not that much of a problem. I’ve been raised by the belief that everyone deserves the same rights and duties, no matter what their race, gender or orientation may be. I’ve never witnessed an act of hate due simply to the color of their skin and everyone gets a fair shake.

Part of this is because of the age we live in. During the civil rights movement, who would have thought that the highest paid athlete in America would be Lebron James? Or that actors like Denzel Washington and Lupita Nyong’o would win the highest awards for their craft? Or how about Oprah Winfrey being, well, Oprah? She is just her own brand now and is arguably the most powerful woman in the world.

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And of course, the leader of the free world, the president of the United States. We really have made a lot of progress when it comes to civil rights.

The reason I bring this up is to show how the film “Selma” has left very little impact on me. While I’m sure this film will stir some people up, “Selma” left me feeling a bit cold about events that were already ingrained into me – that the civil rights movement was a very tough time period when African-Americans were suppressed and did not have any rights as citizens of America.

My response to that is – Man, it is a good thing we are passed that. So, what does this have to do with me?

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This is my problem with “Selma.” The whole film comes across as a documentary about that time period with actors playing these significant roles – Danny Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Tim Boardbent as President Lyndon B. Johnson and Oprah Winfrey as her holy self. Rather than telling a story with relatable characters and showing their lives, “Selma” is recapping the major events of the civil rights movement that led to African-Americans claiming their rights to vote and be apart of this nation.

In showing how this came about, “Selma” does just fine. Every major moment is given the weight and importance that it deserves. How Martin Luther King Jr. became such an icon and leader in that movement is put on full display.

However, outside of being that leader, that figure which most people know about, we do not get to know much Martin Luther King. We know that he has a few fights with his wife, but that’s about it. There is a person inside that legend, but it does not seem like we get to know him.

Last year, “12 Years A Slave” showed us an honest yet brutal portrayal of one the darkest times in American history. A time when African-Americans were treated worse than filth and inhumanly. While I had problems with the film, I still respect Steven McQueen and the film for bringing this often-forgotten story to light and never once flinching in the face of disgust.

While I could say the same thing about “Selma,” there is this feeling that holds me back. It is most certainly honest, but to the point where it becomes tedious. Perhaps it is that “Selma” does not take enough chances with a story that has been told many times, or that it feels more like a documentary instead of flowing narrative.

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We’ve seen or have been taught these historical events already, so what else do you have?

Overall, “Selma” is average. It sits on the border of dull and excitement, unsure if it wants to be faithful to history or try something new. Each scene gets the job done at getting the point across and does not over stay its welcome. As a recap of that movement and a time capsule of mid-1960 Alabama, “Selma” is fine. If you’re unfamiliar with that time period or Martin Luther King Jr, check it out. But if you already know about it, then this film probably won’t do anything for you.

Final Grade: C

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