Movie Review: Talk to Me

Dennis suggests Talk to Me (in Feature Drama). Starring two of my favorite unsung actors, this biopic doesn’t so much avoid the lockstep, by-the-numbers clichés of the ‘based on a real life’ formula as steamroll right over them with energy, a groovy soul score and the undeniable charisma of Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, Dirty Pretty Things, Children of Men). It may also benefit from the fact that it’s about someone most people never heard of. Cheadle plays Ralph Waldo ‘Petey’ Greene, a motormouthed ex-con who became a popular, influential deejay in Washington D.C. in the 70s. Parlaying his stint playing records in the joint, a chance meeting with stylish, upright radio exec Dewey Hughes (Ejiofor), and his natural chutzpah into a controversial gig at D.C.’s WOL-FM, a successful standup and TV career, and an influential position as a community leader, Cheadle’s Petey Greene remains a constant, uncompromising figure, speaking his mind, taking no guff from the man, and, ultimately, revealing his limitations as well as his inner complexity (most painfully in an infamous, abortive stint on ‘The Tonight Show’). Like most biopics, Talk to Me follows a familiar path, and I was ready to put my viewing mind on ‘biopic cruise control’ when the movie’s energy kept waking me back up. In Petey’s on-air attempts to channel D.C.’s fury over the assassination of Dr. King, in his drunken, yet stirring introduction of James Brown in a free concert the day after, on the ‘Tonight Show’ gig, and the subsequent blow-up between Petey and friend/manager Dewey, I’ll be damned if the thing just kept keeping it fresh and alive. With stellar supporting help from Martin Sheen as staightlaced white station owner E. G. Sonderling (watch his heartbreaking response to the assassination and the aftermath), and Taraji P. Henson as Petey’s loyal Vernell, who looks like she stepped out of a Pam Grier movie, isn’t above kicking out (or just plain kicking) Petey when his foolishness gets to be too much, but who has wisdom and vitality to spare.

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Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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