REVIEW: Beyond the Lights is Beyond Beautiful

Beyond the Lights Gugu Mbatha-Raw

It’s important to combat the perception that Black people don’t want to fall in love and get married and fight for each other. Because we do. And I think the more we see it, the more it will become normalized and will contradict some of the negative images that we see.” ~Gina Prince-Bythewood (TheYBF.com)

I am a real sucker for love stories featuring Black people. I know that sounds super-simplistic and perhaps even biased, but the reasoning behind my obsession is that these stories are often VERY RARE. And my thirst for these stories runs so deep that I often find myself swiping through the Redbox screen, stumbling upon something that I know will be of poor quality, corny and unbelievable but I rent it anyway.

Beyond the Lights PosterSo you can only imagine my excitement when I first saw the trailer for Beyond the Lights. Plus I trust Gina Prince-Bythwood. I’m one of those people who stans for certain directors/writers (you’ve read me swoon over Ava Duvernay whose Selma is getting awesome reviews unsurprisingly). All that to say my expectations for Beyond the Lights were high and thanks to stellar casting, writing, directing, cinematography, everything y’all, I give the film two thumbs up! 

I hate making comparisons like these but I truly believe Nate Parker is the “next Denzel.” He gives such a well-balanced performance. I’ve read many folks compare it to The Bodyguard, but that’s not the vibe I got at all. Yes there’s a singer (Noni played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and an officer (Kaz played by Nate Parker) but I promise you won’t see any crazies gluing together stalker letters. Don’t go into the theater expecting a Houston/Costner type deal.

Anyway, here are THREE reasons you should see Beyond the Lights ASAP:

The awesome chemistry between Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. It’s love at first sight — the “I see you” moment reminded me of Jerry McGuire’s “You complete me.” These two look good together and are good for each other.  You want them to work it out. It’s messy and chaotic from the start but there’s a magnet pulling them together. While they may paint the damsel in distress story for the media to gobble up, something says that they’re actually saving each other. The pacing of their evolution from strangers to couple, lie to truth is delightful to watch–you’ll feel like you’re following along your favorite pop star. Some of their actions were a little cliché, but it never gets corny or too unbelievable.

Beyond the Lights

The music. As a Nina Simone fan, they had me with Blackbird. Noni’s haunting rendition will give you chills–just warning you! It’s beautiful, painful, tender, hopeful…her character if she was a melody. The difference between that and the soul-less “hits” she’s featured on made me think about many of today’s starlets. Their voices and images are so manufactured that the editing completely hides the raw, natural talent that’s really unique (remember that time when ya’ll heard T-Pain WITHOUT autotune). Gina’s direction and authentic story lines make you feel like she’s taking you beyond the lights — yes these celebrities live seemingly perfect lives but it’s not always glamorous. The music biz is cutthroat and oftentimes the artist has to compromise and is cut out of critical decisions regarding their music. It’s sad actually and you can see this powerlessness in Noni’s eyes. You also see the vulnerability when she’s stripped of her hypersexualized image, purple hair, and entourage. Still…what’s left is way more beautiful than all the soul-sucking fakery.

The portrayal of the “right path.” For Noni, it’s music; for Kaz it’s politics. Both industries have a tried and true path. What happens when two people decide to blaze their own? Their parents are busy helping them strategize, mostly based on tactics that will make them (not necessarily their children) look and feel better. They may not have made it, but they birthed superstars who are on the brink of making it — both Noni’s mom and Kaz’s dad are blinded by this obsession to prove everybody wrong and have passed this incredibly heavy burden down to the next generation. Sound like your life a little? That’s the thing about this movie, it feels very personal and compels you to consider your own choices.

As glitzy a story it is, Beyond the Lights is a genuine, relatable story we all can appreciate. With all the attention grabbing headlines and campaigns to “break the internet” these days, some of us are still wondering how far people are willing to go to spark and/or maintain superstardom. Some of us are wishing for our favorite singers to get back to what made us fall in love with them in the first place: THAT VOICE; THOSE LYRICS. Some of us are waiting for you to fly, little blackbird, to take a chance, despite the naysayers. Beyond the Lights gives us a real glimpse of what could happen. That’s the BEAUTY of this film. It reignites your hope in love — love for each other and love for our gifts.

 

Disclosure: I was granted complimentary tickets to preview Beyond the Lights. However, this did not influence or impact my review. All opinions stated are truly my own! 

3 Responses to “REVIEW: Beyond the Lights is Beyond Beautiful”

  1. LaTrone January 5, 2015 at 9:16 PM #

    Hello Lakeshia! I remember seeing the movie poster at the AMC River East 21 theater here in Chicago several months ago. Initially I thought it was a romance drama about young love. I saw Gugu’s purple hair and complexion and Nate standing shirtless and I thought it would be a complex, interesting love story. As much as I go 2 the movies I don’t recall seeing the trailers. I also didn’t realize that Gugu is the same actress who was in ‘Belle’ earlier this year. I wanted 2 see Belle but I was heavily n2 Captain America, X-MEN, etc. Any way, I didn’t see Beyond the Lights till Thanksgiving. It blew me away! I saw it 2wice that day and night. 2 date I’ve seen Beyond the Lights 22x’s at the theaters.That may be insane and crazy. But that movie speaks 2 me personally on many levels. It made me look at my own life of 41 years and ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?” I look at my life and feel disappointed and saddened that I don’t have certain things and I haven’t accomplished certain things. Yet u have a woman ‘Noni’ in this film who has it all fame wise, beauty, riches, adoration, etc. and yet feels dead and empty inside so much that she wants 2 completely end it all! Then u have a guy like Nate’s character ‘Kaz’ who had a father who trained him up in the way he should go but on the under the radar controlling side. Yet Kaz is solid, internally strong, gallant, honorable, great integrity and isn’t overly impressed by the glitz, the glam and the fame. He had numerous opportunities 2 take advantage of her sexually, emotionally and financially, yet he didn’t. I saw no lust on Kaz’s part 4 Noni. As a matter of fact, she was more aggressive pursuing him than he was pursuing her. That intrigued me as a man. I really don’t wanna get n2 all the color, hair, complexion and racial politics that others have expressed. All I know is that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is an amazing, beautiful and unique talent and Nate Parker has a even brighter future ahead of him as a leading actor. It’s superficial and sad that people let color and or a person’s real life background deter them from experiencing something memorable, powerful and wonderful. Everybody had 2 start somewhere. Somebody had 2 come along, have faith and give them a shot. I believe that this experience will plant and wonderful seed that will blossom n2 great careers 4 Gugu, Nate, Minnie Driver and Gina Prince-Bythewood. In light of all the problems that’s going on with people using and taking advantage of each other, hating and being easily offended by 1 another, people misleading and playing games with 1 another, law enforcement problems, protest, etc., it is 1derful 2 see people of color fall in love so beautifully and fight 4 each other. It’s great 2 see that u can be a black man and a police officer and have integrity, class, honor and respect. And it was even more 1derful 2 see such a stunning transformation from Noni being this prepackaged sexual vixen 2 becoming conscience, self respectful, complete woman who wants love and wants 2 give love 2 probably that 1st real love she’s ever had. I saw Interstellar, Mockingjay, Horrible Bosses, The Gambler, Gone Girl all just 1 time. All very good, interesting, funny, etc. But after 1 viewing, I was satisfied and good. Beyond the Lights is now in my top 15 movies ever with Purple Rain, Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Passion Of The Christ, X-MEN Day’s of Future Past, Superman 1978, Return Of The Jedi, Star Wars, Dirty Dancing, Gladiator, Superman II and Untamed Heart.

    • Lakeshia January 29, 2015 at 9:13 PM #

      I am so with you!!! I’m excited for the DVD release in Feb. so I’ll be able to watch over and over again 🙂

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  1. Beyond the Lights is on DVD - Lakeshia Poole - February 24, 2015

    […] I am a real sucker for love stories featuring Black people. I know that sounds super-simplistic and perhaps even biased, but the reasoning behind my obsession is that these stories are often VERY RARE. And my thirst for these stories runs so deep that I often find myself swiping through the Redbox screen, stumbling upon something that I know will be of poor quality, corny and unbelievable but I rent it anyway. Click to continue reading. […]