TALK TO ME directed by Kasi Lemmons, written by Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa, with Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson and Martin Sheen. 118 minutes An Odeon release. Opens Friday (July 27). For venues and times, see Movies, page 102. Rating: NN
I truly wish talk to me were a better picture. Kasi Lemmons has a genuinely great film on her CV, Eve's Bayou. (Get the director's cut DVD - you won't be disappointed.)
This film features two superb leading actors in Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and they're not just individually excellent, but work well together as an odd couple representing respectability and street smarts.
But somewhere along the way, perhaps during the screenwriting process, perhaps during the editing, the film got away, and the ending is unsatisfying.
Cheadle stars as Petey Greene, a fast-talking convict with an in-prison radio show. Ejiofor, the English actor best known as the star of Dirty Pretty Things and Kinky Boots and the villain in Serenity, is Dewey Hughes, an up-and-coming radio executive in Washington, DC.
It's the late 60s, so there's a lot going on. The story is inspired by the real Greene, who's best remembered as the DJ who talked black Washington out of burning the city down after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. After his initial horror, of the "I hate people who remind me of where I came from" variety, Hughes realizes that Greene could be bigger than just DC radio.
The problem with Talk To Me (the fifth or sixth movie with that title this decade) is that it has a pair of dramatic peaks and then what feels like half an hour of denouement when we wait for some kind of dramatic or emotional payoff that the film seems unwilling or unable to provide. Instead of an emotional climax, it has closure. Who wants that?
On the other hand, Talk To Me's setting in the 1966-1973 era offers a festival of black coiffure and features what may be the single worst beard on any actor this year in Ejiofor's end-of-film goatee. Taraji P. Henson's is the most spectacular afro since Pam Grier's glory days. Henson works that wig, and given that it must have had a support team on set, she does so without it wearing her, which is a tough job. That wig has a personality of its own.