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Synopsis: Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right. (20th Century Fox)
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, and Russell Hornsby
Writer: Audrey Wells
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Rating: PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 132mins
The relationship between African-Americans and the police is still a sadly relevant issue in today’s society and has been covered endlessly across pop culture. In that context, The Hate U give, based on the book of the same by Angie Thomas, is more of the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but this film doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of messaging. Some may relate to the film more than others as the film will surely appeal more to young adult audiences, however, the true fate of the film rests on its main character, Starr Carter (Stenberg). Carter, a teen girl trapped between two worlds, has her life come crashing down after witnessing the fatal shooting of her best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) at the hands of a police officer.
The dichotomy of a teen girl living in two vastly different worlds was an interesting one but the story didn’t go far enough with it, other than pointing out the obvious in an admittedly funny manner. The story was mostly about Carter overcoming her trauma before becoming a reluctant figurehead of the black rights movement in defense of her friend’s memory. However, putting herself at the front of the movement would prove to be difficult for Carter as she finally had to stand up for herself and the convoluted dynamics of her neighborhood and her childhood got in the way. Though her convictions may have been admirable, it was difficult to care about Khalil.
The best part of the film was Stenberg’s excellent performance as Carter. She was fun to watch throughout and her transformation over the course of the film was compelling as well. She was so strong but this arguably goes hand in hand with the film’s forcing its message. She single handedly carries the film as the film didn’t offer much in the way of other characters besides Hall and Hornsby who were good as her parents Lisa and Maverick.
Overall, this was a good YA drama that will surely appeal to younger audiences, including fans of the book, albeit treads familiar ground in terms of messaging but offers a powerful lead performance by Amanda Stenberg.