Talk to Me
African-American filmmaker Kasi 'Eve’s Bayou' Lemmons brings the story of Washington DC radio personality Ralph Petey Greene to the big screen. Petey (Don Cheadle) was a former convict who made his mark as a radio DJ and community activist in the 1960s as the Civil Rights movement moved up a gear. Lemmons brings a light touch to the proceedings by initially concentrating on the more flamboyant aspects of Petey’s personality, whose motor mouth, excellent music taste and fly clothes made him an unforgettable character.
Lemmons and screenwriters Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa posit that Petey cannot be understood without also investigating the life of his manager Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Dewey is the stiff chalk to Petey’s wacky cheese. The story is told through the eyes of Hughes and screen time is divided-up between the two protagonists who come to have a relationship that is as divisive as that of Ike and Tina Turner.
Talk to Me is at its best when it deals with the Civil Rights Movement and the scenes set around the death of Martin Luther King capture the JFK moment of black American history with great poignancy. Though funny in places, the film lacks any decent secondary characters – the shading that the film desperately needs, but it’s easy to see why Lemmons would decide to keep the camera as much as possible on the two excellent central performances. (Kaleem Aftab)
GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh & selected cinemas, Fri 14–Thu 20 Dec.