‘The Hate U Give’ should be seen by everyone
until the night when she witnesses her childhood best friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), get shot by a white police officer at a traffic stop.
It’s a scene made only more devastating by how sweet everything is right before it happens. Starr and Khalil run into each other at a party that gets broken up and he offers to drive her home. He’s a little changed, sporting some fancy new clothes and shoes, as he’s started working for a local drug lord, King (Anthony Mackie), to help support his family and pricey medical bills. The two high schoolers talk about music, and flirt and Khalil leans in to kiss Starr. On its own, this sequence is straight out of the best high school rom-coms, before it turns into a horror film.
Khalil’s killing becomes a national story and Starr is torn about what to do. Testify? Go public? Put her name out there? Not only would she be exposing herself to her school pals, but back at home King and his cohorts have threatened her family, fearing that she would put their operation in jeopardy, too. This debate leads to some fascinating conversations — illuminating and disheartening — between various people, including her uncle Carlos (Common), who is also a police officer, and a fiery activist, April (Issa Rae). But the most moving talks are the ones with her family.
For as naturalistic and real as”The Hate U Give” is, it goes off the rails just a little bit at the climax to make its grand point about the effect of this kind of climate on innocents, but there is too much heart here to really nitpick at a little hyperbole.
If there is any justice in Hollywood, this is the type of film that should make Stenberg a movie star who has her pick of projects. She’s the type of actress who can even make a role in a bad film sing. And in a very good one like”The Hate U Give”? She’s just magic.
“The Hate U Give,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for”mature thematic elements, some violent content, drug material and language.” Running time: 132 minutes.
Three and a half stars out of four.