Posted by: kaleidophonic | September 24, 2011

Movie review: Talk to me

I’m pretty tired after being at a training session all day, so this post is probably going to be pretty short. I thought I’d tell you about a movie I watched the other day, called Talk to Me.

Now, I love movies that revolve around record stores or radio stations – movies like High Fidelity, Empire Records, Pirate Radio, or that awesome classic TV show WKRP in Cincinnati (when are they going to release Season Two of this great series??). So I was surprised that I’d never heard of Talk to Me, a 2007 film about “Petey” Green, who was a popular radio personality in Washington DC during the 1960s and 70s. The film stars Don Cheadle as Green and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Dewey Hughes, who hires Green as the morning show host at radio WOL. The film is focused on the relationship between Petey Green and his audience, who identify with Green’s marginality – he is a confrontational, out-spoken African-American man, newly released from prison. Although the film follows Petey into the 1980s, the real climax of the story traces the events of April 4th, 1968: the assassination of Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That night in Washington, as in many cities across the United States, Black citizens, wracked with anger and grief, rioted and set fire to the city. In several emotional scenes, we watch as Petey decides to stay on air through the night, talking with callers, sharing their sorrow, and reminding listeners of the principles of love and peace that Dr. King advocated. The sense of community and solidarity that this develops helps restore order to the city – and cements Petey’s reputation as a man of the people.

I really enjoyed this movie. The music was classic Rhythm and Blues, Soul, and some Funk, and there is a great recreation of a James Brown concert. The guy they got to play the Godfather of Soul was perfect. The blending of historical events into the storyline was well done, there were many genuinely funny moments, and at least one tear-jerker scene. The cast features supporting roles by Taraji Henson and Cedric the Entertainer, and I loved the decision to cast Martin Sheen as the station owner. (What can I say, I think Martin Sheen is a righteous man in a world sorely lacking in men of moral fortitude).  I liked that the film emphasized the importance of community radio – radio as a tool for social justice and building solidarity.

I honestly can’t think of a single thing I did not like about this movie. So if you like radio stories, check this one out.

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