Talk To Me: Uneven biopic. Don Cheadle plays Ralph “Petey” Greene, a fast-talking ex-convict who becomes a DJ in the D.C. area in the Sixties. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Dewey Hughes, the radio producer who takes a chance on the street-smart jiver who talks to The People! And so forth. While the details of Petey Greene’s broadcasting career are pretty entertaining, the movie suffers from flat dialogue and stilted pacing.
For instance: when Greene’s agitating for a radio job proves too disruptive for Hughes’ station to ignore, Hughes proposes to meet Greene at a nearby pool hall. Greene suggests that they shoot a game of nine-ball, with a disc jockey job as the stakes. Hughes agrees. As soon as this happens, we know that it’s going to be a close game – because Hughes (the producer) would not agree to offer Greene (the ex-con) a job on the air if he had any doubts in his own abilities at shooting pool. Hughes then proceeds to take off his jacket, unbutton his sleeves and lay a side bet that Greene won’t drop a single ball off the break. Not ten seconds have passed, and we know that Hughes is going to run the table. The language of film – dialogue, shot placement, pacing, music – all tell us this for certain.
So this whole scene takes about six minutes. Greene’s rise to local stardom, once he finally has a radio job, takes about four minutes.
Add to this the most frequent problem with any biopic – characters commenting on how important they are at This Moment In History, rather than doing important things – and the resulting picture drags. Don Cheadle playing a hustling ex-con soul DJ who talked smack about Berry Gordy, broadcasting from the heart of D.C. during the race riots of ’68, should have been captivating, moving and hilarious. Instead I found myself checking the DVD sleeve at the 80-minute mark: “God damn! There’s still half an hour left?”
The Slutcracker: at long last, a burlesque adaptation of The Nutracker Suite. In this high-spectacle, high-energy production, Clara and Fritz are boyfriend and girlfriend, inviting friends over for Christmas dinner. When Clara’s grandmother tries to give her a large pink dildo as a Christmas gift, Clara is horrified and Fritz (feeling a little inadequate) jealously kicks the grandmother out. But she sneaks back in that evening and demonstrates the dildo’s magical powers to Clara: it transforms into the handsome and athletic Slutcracker Prince. The two of them dance away to a fairy wonderland, where dominatrices dance en pointe and male pole dancers vault to Arabesque strains.
The Nutcracker is a natural fit for this sort of story (“moreso than Macbeth”, I commented to Liz and Hugh, with whom I saw it). A postmodern audience could read the entire ballet, with little difficulty, as the story of a girl’s sexual awakening. Adolescent girl becomes fascinated with virile man (the Nutcracker) who takes her on a tour of exotic lands – Spain, Arabia, China – and epicurean delights. It’s a natural fit. Maybe they could tackle Swan Lake in the spring?