Dallas Movie Screening

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

DIFF 2014: 1982

Director/Screenwriter/Producer and Philadelphain Tommy Oliver (KINYARWANDA Sundance) makes his directorial first film in 1982, which is based on a true story. It portrays the struggles of a small family which includes small business owner Tim (Hill Harper CSI NY) , his wife Shenae (Sharon Leal BOSTON PUBLIC, DREAMGIRLS), and brilliant, studious, gifted young daughter Maya (Troi Zee in her first film). Despite their perfectly maintained little home, and dutiful love for each other, they still struggle to make ends meet as Tim tries to grow his laundromat business and and Shenae fights heavy boredom through a readdiction to drugs and experiences the downward spiral that follows. Once feels Shenae is quite 100 percent in on the marriage deal as she continually rebuffs Tim's quiet but patient romantic advances. There is some missing chemistry in their on screen relationship. Tim appears to never have quite trusted Shenae with regards to other men or distractions like drugs, full well knowing her former history. But the saddest thing on the screen is knowing that Maya has to see what is happening to her mother while Tim's quiet, deliberate but desperate attempts at keeping his family together appear to be failing left and right. He soon realizes that just being there for his wife is not going to be enough. Tim is a man of few words and quiet action, but his love for his family and fatherly desire to protect Maya at all costs must spark the willingness in him to take on the mountain that is crashing down onto their lives.

Recently released from prison, Alonzo (Wayne Brady HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER) is a drug dealer and former boyfriend of Shenae, and he functions without a conscience. He finds Shenae and starts hanging around her home and neighborhood, pointing out her boring and uneventful life of domesticity with her boring and unexciting husband. He lures her back to crack with promises of fun and adventure and when she moves out to live with friend Neecie (La La Anthony SINGLE LADIES, THINK LIKE A MAN) after a fight. She disappears from there and it rapidly becomes clear she has totally fallen by the wayside once again. Tim does his best to keep life normal for Maya but Shenae keeps crashing in and out of it, forcing Tim to change the locks and promote some tough love. The final third of the film shows us just how much addiction can cost, how much one can lose and what the power of steadfast devotion can accomplish when one hits rock bottom.

Debuting at Toronto Film Festival the film is sparsely shot, with only the basic necessary spoken words. The focus here is on the storytelling and the acting. 1982 is a slow fall off a cliff where you know the ending cannot entirely be good. The settings are spot on through early 80's decor and fashion. Sharon Leal's performance is solid as she moves from nicely coiffed housewife to sprawled on the ground, losing your dignity, steal from your daughter drug addict. But our gift is Tim through Hill Harper, who get an opportunity to portray a strong, but quiet, African American father figure, a role so often absent in our wide range of media. His love for his wife, his devotion to caring for his daughter, and the hardworking and steadfast provider qualities all make Tim a character to be celebrated. For once it is not the strong black woman holding everything together. He has dropped the trappings of the hip young urban black crowd to be a family man and work for what he earns. Tommy Oliver has stated that his own mother was drug addiction so he has written what he knows. The film was shot in Oliver's actual childhood house and in the areas of Philadelphia where such activities actually have and do occur, bringing Philadelphia in as another character. His own experiences led him to create a powerful story that in our day and age could happen to anyone and to those who think otherwise? They need to think again. A final unexpected film treat is the appearance of 90 year old Ruby Dee as grandmother Rose Brown.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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