Queen & Slim
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Writer: Lena Waithe, James Frey
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson, Indya Moore, Benito Martinez, Jahi Di’Allo Winston
Seen on: 9.1.2020
Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) are on a blind date and things are not going particularly well. But they are still talking as Slim drives Queen home. That’s when they’re stopped by a police officer (Sturgill Simpson) who behaves pretty threateningly. Things get out of hand, and Slim ends up shooting the officer. In a panic, Slim and Queen take off, trying to figure out how to go from here – but their options are limited to say the least.
Queen & Slim is a strong film in many ways with a couple of serious missteps that keep the film from being really great, unfortunately.
Queen & Slim takes up a very current and highly political topic in a very effective way. The first part of the film, before the two go on the run, rips right into you – starting with the awkward date that seems almost like the set-up for a different film and the way the violence is so utterly inescapable. It was the best part of the film, hands down.
I did like the first part of their escape as well, the way the black community reacts to them and their actions (though not uniformly), how they become a symbol of resistance and hope. And they do become a symbol for the fight against white supremacy. Which makes the ending where they both have to die (a cheesy martyr-death if ever I saw one) that much more egregious. Not only because I really wanted them to escape (whether it would have been realistic or not really isn’t the point), but also because the movie literally kills (the symbols of) hope and resistance it has been establishing for most of its runtime.
Add to that a seriously misguided montage of Slim and Queen fucking interspersed with images of a protest where a young boy inspired by them shoots another (black) police man point blank in the face. This juxtaposition was as cringeworthy as it was meaningless. The most I can get out of this arrangement is that facing oppression creates both love and community and more violence – but that’s already a very generous interpretation that isn’t really what the film gets across.
Despite those things, Queen & Slim is worth seeing. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith are fantastic (there are also some great supporting actors, most notably Indya Moore and a practically unrecognizable Flea), the issues raised are important, even if not always handled perfectly. I don’t regret watching it at all.
Summarizing: could have been even more but was enough to be worth seeing.