Dir; Joe Talbot. Starring; Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover. R. Color. 121 min.
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is more of a poem than it is your typical theatre going experience. Director Joe Talbot gives the audience an array of beautiful images, surreal story telling and a group of gang members as our proverbial ‘chorus’ to the story. There are so many things to love about this film. At moments it is almost impossible not to shed a tear. Yet in the end, it is not a complete package.
Writer and star Jimmie Fails plays, well himself. Along with his best friend Montgomery (Jonathan Majors) the pair live in a packed low income home headed up by Monty’s grandfather Allen (Danny Glover). The two sidekicks enjoy skateboarding around the city together among other things. San Francisco is essentially a side character here, hence the title. The hill style roads are not the only element used to show the city’s beauty.
They stumble upon Jimmie’s former home which was allegedly erected in the 1940’s by his grandfather. The current owners want nothing to do with the flawed structure so the two fix the place up and become proverbial ‘squatters’ at the residency. What began as a simple project becomes a reflection of poor suburban culture for the life long friends.
Where to begin with all of the wonderful moments. The use of a gang group who is always outside of the house as a moral compass is superb. The way in which low income parents are portrayed as humans instead of nut jobs is spot on. Ultimately all they want is what is best for their children even if they do not know how to do it. An inevitable tragedy leading to an intimate one man poetry reading in the top floor of the house will have you crying for days.
Unfortunately this beauty is the crux of what keeps “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” from getting beyond the level of good to great. Cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra crafts some exquisite images yet it feels like literally every shot has to be breathtaking or bust. I’m a huge believer in the idea that each frame should count, but not every shot should be your opus. The ending, or should I say ending-‘s’ are also too much. Each of them are poignant and smart but once you get to the third, then fourth, then fifth one it diminishes the impact.
Not a film for everyone, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is still a highly respectable directorial debut for Joe Talbot. While not a complete piece, there are moments that certainly garner best scene of the year consideration. I look forward to seeing what Talbot brings us next.
Suck Factor: 2 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!