At this rate, for any invested bystander who is eagerly anticipating Melina Matsoukas’ directorial debut, the comparisons between Bonnie and Clyde are already at for-front of this film’s prime market appeal. Don’t take this the wrong way though. Queen & Slim is a modernist take on a classic story of crime, class struggle, and hope. Waithe’s script is a particularly profound force of nature. Her writing proves that this isn’t just the film we need right now. It’s the film that everyone needs to see! Cinema is primarily a gateway to a new realm and perspective. Matsoukas’ takes us into the mindset of a socially-villainous duo, who are bound upon society’s rulings to conform with race-expectations and human struggle. The titular characters, after experiencing a brutal act of self-defense, go on the run and experience the liberating freedom of escaping the pressures of oppression.
Kaluuya strikes again with another timeless role, that follows the trials and tribulations of unwarranted hatred and infamy. Similar to his work in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, his performance never fails to move the most stubborn of viewers. His expressive eyes is what sells his role, as he meticulously crafts a detailed POV of a sympathetic “killer” on the run. The elephant in the room however, obviously has to be Jodie Turner-Smith’s first leading role as Queen, an endearing bad-ass who never fails to charm, outwit, and commiserate. Combining Kaluuya and Smith’s pairing together in a spicy crock-pot of genre twists and subverted expectations, makes for one hell of an immersive and raw experience. With the added pressures of a first time debut; every needle-drop, every line of dialogue, and almost every shot is loaded with significant purpose and commentary.
Just like Bonnie and Clyde, we all know what the tragic outcome is eventually to come in Queen & Slim. What the film needed to benefit from the most, was the execution of it’s over two-hour journey of self-discovery. The ride ultimately feels overlong, tedious, and unfocused. The first 30-minutes is visceral and exciting, yet the other two acts die down with a swooning whimper. Consistency is key in keeping interest, though it seems as if Matsoukas decided to focus on other less important subplots, rather than aiming for the central narrative development at hand.
What needed drastic fine-tuning for it be called a modern masterpiece, Queen & Slim still manages to awe and make due with it’s limited predictable structure. One of the most important films to come out of 2019, Queen & Slim is a beautiful debut that is sure to leave a legacy for those deeply affected by the depicted police misdemeanors, that occurs all to frequently in this day and age of injustice and dueling class warfare.
Queen & Slim opens in select cinemas on November 27th