Let’s file this under: Why on EARTH haven’t more people seen this film!!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Fantastic music, a solid screenplay, sexy smoldering performances by the leads, and a supporting cast that does EXACTLY what they’re supposed to and best of all MESSAGED received!
This is indeed the description belonging to the new Gina Prince-Bythewood film Beyond The Lights. Having screened this film several times because I always recruit someone else who wants to go see it based off my words alone, I can say without ANY hesitation that the latest time is just as enjoyable at the first! It puzzles me greatly why more people haven’t seen this film but I think after my latest screening I finally figured out WHY which I will get to in a moment.
First the cast: The enigmatic up and coming superstar Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Charismatic Nate Parker, the treasure Minnie Driver, and the brilliantly seasoned Danny Glover. This cast is an absolute joy to watch and the chemistry between them that we’re seeing on screen is a GIFT that one should SAVOR. I for one am extremely proud of the performance of Nate Parker as a leading man. Having watched him mature from film to film (I think most of us remember him from The Great Debaters and The Secret Life Of Bees to the mastery that is Red Tails and in the suspense thriller Non-Stop) his growth very much on display as Kaz the hero police officer soon to be politician (a path that’s been very well seeded by his Father, endearingly played by Danny Glover) who is thrust into the wild world that is the music business. I’ve gushed about Gugu’s brilliant performance as Nino Jean over and over to as many people as I can but the truth is she makes it easy to do that, she’s such a constellation on screen that those around her can’t help but be drawn in and are forced to up their game and shine in their own way.
The premise is simple, Noni Jean (Mbatha-Raw) and her Momager (owned by Minnie Driver) have spent their entire lives trying to live out their dreams (err or maybe one living her dreams through the other) of being at the very top of the music business and have done pretty much whatever it takes to get there. Including quite a few things Noni doesn’t feel align with who she truly is. It comes to a head almost immediately in the film and this is when Noni and Kaz’s paths cross. Once they meet, you cannot imagine one without the other but there’s a reason FOR that. They’re not star-crossed lovers, they aren’t ying and yang. They’re literally like two halves of a very fractured globe.
Gina Prince-Bythewood does a marvelous job of showcasing what makes these two beautiful (internally and externally) people superstars in their own right. Kaz is indeed a stand up sort of guy and Noni Jean is indeed having taken a long walk on the wild side and yet they couldn’t be clearer mirrors of each other if they tried. And that is showcased so well on screen that you find yourself smiling, harking back to a time you remember when. Now make no mistake Noni Jean is no damsel in distress, she’s very much the epitome of strength and will but she needed that little, subtle push that we all need from time to time. A dose of reality if you will. It’s not difficult to see how she might have strayed, after all the music business is so very much about FANTASY and the one who has the IT factor at the moment. And that brings me to the point I mentioned earlier about why more people haven’t rushed to theatres and seen this gem of a film.
You see, this film does a brilliant job of showing you the hypocrisy and insanity that is the music business. The out of control songs, videos, the basically sex on a stick costumes, and the fire fanned by social media and the connection that ‘fans’ now have to their idols. See I think that far too many people are afraid of seeing the hellish cyclone the music business has become. People are afraid of seeing the naked truth about the people they idolize, the lives they lead, the constant sacrifices they make, and the humanity they give up in order to be the IT person of the moment. There’s a line in the film that I will paraphrase because I think it nails it right on the head. Noni Jean to Momager Macy Jean-“You know there would be times in photo shoots when they would ask me to take off more and more clothing and I would look to you to see if it was OK and it was ALWAYS OK!!!”
And THAT’S EXACTLY what this gem of a film does. It peels the layers of the music entertainment industry back and shows you just how insane it all really is, and just how so very DEEP the rabbit hole goes.
I absolutely recommend this film. It’s another #MUSTSEE that your commands attention from start to finish almost effortlessly!!!
Joyll Cambridge hails from Manchester, United Kingdom and currently lives in New York, New York. She loves all things movies, fitness and swirling. To read Joyll’s personal blog at The Humanist Exec, click here.
Joyll joined our team as our resident movie reviewer. To contact Joyll or request a review, email her at SheCritiques@TheSwirlWorld.com.
Copyright ©2014 Michelle Matthews Calloway, ASwirlGirl™, The Swirl World™, The Swirl World Podcast™, All rights reserved. Photo of Joyll Cambridge used with permission. Movie poster from the movie “Beyond The Lights” obtained from IMDB.