Beyond The Lights

Movie:  Beyond The Lights

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was a talented young girl who always wanted to be a singer.  Her mother, Macy Jean (Minnie Driver), always wanted her daughter to be a mega-star.  The only problem, Macy Jean was a tyrannical stage Mom, constantly driving her daughter harder and harder to make a name for herself in the music business.

Fast forward to the present.  Noni is on the verge of stardom, having just won her third Billboard award for best song.   She is dating rapper Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly), and a top record label is about to put out her first album amid much hullabaloo.  But hold on, an “incident” occurs on the eve of her awards and long sought after success that may derail her plans, and even her career.  Just to make things more interesting, and quite a bit more complex, Noni becomes interested in a fellow outside of her music circles, Kaz Nicole (Nate Parker), who is an aspiring politician.  Not everyone is happy about this development, especially Kaz’s father, police captain Nicol (Danny Glover).

This is a rather well travelled story, the stage mother who pushes the talented daughter to stardom for her own good.  The problem is, it was done much better in previous films, such as I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955), Gypsy (1962), and recently Black Swan (2010).  The trappings of the plot have been modernized with scenes of rappers and music videos, but nothing substantial has been added to make this movie stand out.  To be honest, a 1/2 star was added to the rating just because of the lead actress, who frankly deserved a better vehicle.

Actress To Watch:  The lead actress, of course, is Gugu Mabatha-Raw, and she is one of the most talented actresses around.  She squeezed all the juice she could out of this plot to give the film some life.   She has been great in smaller film roles, such as  Larry Crowne and more recently Belle.  A delightful English actress, I see big things ahead for her.  And yes, she did her own singing in this film.

Huh, What The….:  Most police officers have a mandatory retirement at age 55.  Danny Glover is actually 68, and looked older in this movie.  Time to pull the pin!

In the credits, basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire is listed as a producer.  Seriously?  He was billed as the next NBA superstar, but pretty much is a bust on the court.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Do you want to be a runner up, or do you want to be a winner?”

“If she doesn’t kick ass at that show, I will personally drop her from this label!”

“You just got into a brawl with a rapper on national TV!”

“Are you saying you don’t want to be a bitter, broken man?”

“There was never any we.  Your word was always gospel.”

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