Dan's Review: "Queen and Slim" a journey of love and hate
Nov 27, 2019 04:12PM
By Dan Metcalf
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim - © 2019 Universal.
Queen and Slim (Universal)
Rated R for violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language, and brief drug use.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Indya Moore, Sturgill Simpson, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Melanie Halfkenny, Thom Gossom Jr., Gralen Bryant Banks.
Written by Lena Waithe, James Frey, and Lena Waithe.
Directed by Melina Matsoukas.
If you were to ask what any person thinks about race relations in the US right now, the answers might vary. Much of what we perceive about such things are often based on what kind of media we consume, and more particularly, from what side of the media we consume it. Mainstream and left-leaning sources seem to suggest that race relations are as bad or worse than we experienced in the 1960s at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Right-leaning sources suggest that everything is great. I tend to lean on hard data for such answers (which I will keep to myself in this review), but it can be assumed that you will get the most polarizing responses between African American and white middle-class individuals. Whatever your view of race in America, whether it be a creation of media that is sustained by conflict or your own anecdotal experience, we cannot escape our own biases shape our perception of reality. Such biases and perceptions are at the heart of Queen and Slim, Melina Matsoukas’ new film about a young couple on the run after a deadly encounter with a trigger-happy police officer.
Daniel Kaluuya plays “Slim” who is chosen for a date with “Queen” (Jodie Turner-Smith) on the Tinder app. After their date, Slim is pulled over by an angry police officer (Sturgill Simpson) who shoots Queen in the leg after she reaches for a cell phone. Slim reacts by tackling him, grabbing his gun and shooting him in self-defense. The couple takes off to New Orleans where Queen’s Uncle Earl (Bokeem Woodbine) lives as a pimp. Queen and Slim take his car to travel to Florida where they hope to charter a plane and escape to Cuba. Along the way, they meet people who regard them as heroes, using their deadly traffic stop (now shown around the country through the officer’s dashboard camera) as inspiration to demonstrate against police brutality toward African Americans. As Queen and Slim get closer to their destination, they must trust people they’ve never met, taking risks for being seen and turned in. They are helped by one of Uncle Earl’s old Iraq War buddies and his wife (Flea and Chloë Sevigny) before embarking on the last leg of their journey.
If you were to strip away the racial aspects of Queen and Slim, you’d still have an excellent story of two people who fall into a doomed relationship and embark on an impossible journey of discovery. Since race plays such a big part of the narrative, you’d have to make your own conclusions about the societal implications of Queen and Slim, with its unlikely twists and turns. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith exhibit raw chemistry and passion that is well-suited for their characters’ shared quest for survival in an unjust world.
Some of the plot twists in the movie are a little over the top, especially during a scene in which a young man (Jahi Di'Allo) rushes out to participate in a deadly race demonstration against police brutality shortly after meeting the two main characters. Maybe the filmmakers were trying to share some sort of cruel irony about racism and law enforcement, but the actions of the characters didn’t feel authentic, as if there were some sort of forced metaphor about the hopeless nature of race relations in play.
Despite these improbable behaviors, Queen and Slim is a very compelling love story regardless of how you feel about racism and justice in America. My hope is that we can continue improving how we see race, even when the worst part of our nature gets so much attention.
"Queen and Slim" Trailer