I’m curious of all the eyes glazing over this article, how many could honestly tell me about your childhood home? Do you remember the smells of certain rooms? Did you have a room which that smelled like cedar? Could you tell me stories about rooms where you fell and busted your knees? I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I ever could tell you such stories. I could tell you about hours where my sister and I played barbies and cars or board games while it poured rain. How we would watch Disney animated movies on repeat because the snow was thick enough to cut our connection to the cable. Perhaps for some people their childhood home are memories of a simpler time. I can’t say I personally feel that way but the memories I build within those four walls I wouldn’t change for anything.
We’re a society chasing nostalgia. I feel constantly as if the stories making up my news feed on social media are either politics or a film studio remaking a property from yesterday. Such is the subject for the film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. The film centers around Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) & his friend Montgomery (Jonathon Majors) as they fall into possession of Jimmy’s childhood home. While the film is simplistic in its narrative, it’s equally as deep. Fails and Majors primarily make up the majority of the screen time together. The dual narrative with the restoration of Jimmy’s childhood home and their relationship create an insanely beautiful and intimate final product. The chemistry between Fails and Majors is the stuff of legend. With a cast that boasts veterans like Danny Glover & Rob Morgan, the two leading actors manage to not only hold their own but immensely add to the film’s beauty.
The visual nature of the film only deepens the beauty in which the film creates. With remarkable visuals, thanks to the marriage of director, Joe Talbot, & cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra. Black Man continues in the ferociously gorgeous films which A24 has gained a reputation for. The camera angles in which, Talbot, enlists to tell his story only solidify the visual aspect of it even more. Black Man feels like a film out of time and gloriously timeless, yet still relevant to today’s audience. The score from Emile Mosseri feels like a throwback to the cool jazz days of Sammie Davis Jr & Nat King Cole. The visual aesthetic pairing with the smooth jazz score take Black Man to bold new directions that help the voice of the film fearlessly stand out.
Though, while it boasts a stellar soundtrack and killer visuals, the narrative suffers from two-dimensionality and the occasional lag. While Majors & Fails spark an undeniable chemistry, not all of its actors feel like they fit in its narrative. A group of young men, who feel as if they are forced into the antagonist arena of the film, feel largely misplaced and criminally stereotypic. While the film breaks ground for its jazz roots, it’s the forced hip hop and gangster stereotype which holds the film back. Though, one of the characters do spark some of the film’s more memorable sequences and powerhouse monologue delivery from Majors – he also manages to have the last act of the film draw to a stale mate. While the film still boasts largely in its visual and audio arsenal, the last act feels more like a Welcome to San Francisco video than actual narrative. Feeling barren of purpose and storytelling, the film feels a bit too long for its nature. Unnecessarily digs into a bigger story than the film is trying to tell.
Overall, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, is a film gloriously out of time. Boasting a timeless factor which few modern-day films can have, thanks in large part to its’ visuals ques and a smooth jazz score. With leads in Jimmie Fails and Jonathon Majors, Black Man presents a simplistic narrative which is largely effective thanks to its’ core cast, their chemistry and emotional delivery. A furiously bold movie that stands out on its’ own marvelously. As timeless as the film can feel, its’ two-dimensional characters present more stereotypes than the act of breaking new ground. In its’ in that two-dimensionality as well, which presents a final act that comes to a halt. Presenting a narrative that views more like San Francisco welcome video than an actual satisfying finale for the characters. The film feels incomplete in some areas though its largely still satisfying in its final product.
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Credits: The Last Black Man in San Francisco is property of A24. This is an official selection of Lost Weekend XII.