Is Racially-themed Movie ‘Queen and Slim’ a Story for Our Times?
“I’m of the thought that you can entertain and create change. It’s what Lena and I like to call ‘protest art.’ I hope that it brings value to black life and the black experience. If we create a dialogue about police brutality and black love and unity, then I think we’ve done our job.”
The new movie Queen and Slim is being dubbed as a ‘black Bonnie and Clyde,’ but is it a deeper response to the current debate of police brutality and racial profiling?
Screenwriter Lena Waithe (Emmy winner for “Master of None”) is open about her new movie’s intentions.
“It’s almost a battle cry for every black person we’ve lost from a (police officer’s) gun or a vigilante’s gun simply because of the fact that they’re black,” Waithe said.
Directed by Melina Matsoukas (Grammy-winning music video director), the movie follows a young black couple, Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya), on a cross-country journey after a viral video shows them shooting a white police officer in self-defense during a traffic stop. Consequently, they’ve become heroes to some and villains to others.
Matsoukas shared screenwriter Waithe’s vision for the film.
“I’m of the thought that you can entertain and create change,” said Matsoukas. “It’s what Lena and I like to call ‘protest art.’ I hope that it brings value to black life and the black experience. If we create a dialogue about police brutality and black love and unity, then I think we’ve done our job.”
Matsoukas has incorporated the struggles and stories of historically underrepresented groups into her previous work as well, such as with music superstar Beyonce. Nonetheless, the director assures that her new movie is a romance at the core too—about a man and a woman who find solace with each other in a world that is crashing and burning.
Although Queen and Slim is clearly a movie that touches on important issues of our time, will it do well? 2017’s horror film, Get Out (which also starred Kaluuya), was a surprise smash hit that scared audiences as well as sparked debate on race relations in the U.S. Last year, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman was a critical and commercial hit; it was widely regarded as an analogy to our current political climate. However, more recently, a reportedly feminist-themed reboot of Charlie’s Angels flopped at the box office this month.
Like most Hollywood entertainment, it’s always a gamble and it may just boil down to sheer quality. It’s no guarantee that audiences will like something simply because it touches on hot-button issues of the day. Audiences don’t want to be preached at. As Matsoukas said: they must be entertained as well.
Queen and Slim has garnered positive reviews so far, with 85% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews, and a 75/100 score on Metacritic. It opens in theaters this Wednesday, November 27.