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The Hate U Give (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

The Hate U Give


Starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Dominique Fishback, TJ Wright, Megan Lawless, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Tony Vaughn, Marcia Wright, Al Mitchell, Karan Kendrick, Javon Johnson, Mike Stoudt, Tye Claybrook Jr. and Andrene Ward-Hammond.

Screenplay by Audrey Wells.

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 132 minutes. Rated PG-13.

I have been waiting for this film for so long. I have been following author Angie Thomas on social media since her book started creating so much buzz, watched when she announced it had been optioned for film, and one by one, as she announced which roles were cast. Thomas excitedly provided updates throughout the process. But like so many books adapted to film, would it fall short?

Good literature tells a story that puts you in the skin of its characters, allows you to gain a new perspective, and hopefully develop some empathy through that perspective that you may never have otherwise had. Reading The Hate U Give, I was allowed the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what life is like in the character of Starr’s skin – a perspective that I will never truly experience but is so important for having a broader understanding of life in America today. It applies for so many friends and neighbors, whose interactions, and, frankly safety, are shaped by the color of their skin. The Hate U Give is an important story for our time. If you haven’t already read the book, you should.

I am super happy to write that if you haven’t already read the book, still go see this film. Although the book will always hold a special place in my heart (and my bookshelf), Audrey Wells has done a fine job adapting the book to screen, making changes where necessary, but not diluting the spirit of the story.

The casting is phenomenal. Amandla Stenberg plays the perfect Starr, our teen lead, caught between two selves – Garden Heights Starr straight from the neighborhood and Williamson Starr, at the private school where her parents send her, so she and her brothers can have a better chance at life. At Williamson, she can’t use slang, even when her friends do, so that no one has the thought of calling her ghetto.

Starr lives with her loving parents. Mom Lisa (played by Regina Hall) works hard as a nurse. Dad Maverick (played by Russell Hornsby) owns Garden Heights’ neighborhood store, Carter’s, after serving three years in prison, taking the rap for drug lord King (played by Anthony Mackie). Mom and Dad are very much in love and want nothing more than to raise their family safely but with a sense of neighborhood pride.

Starr’s uncle Carlos (played by Common) is a police officer who stepped in to raise Starr and her brothers (older half-brother, Seven played by Lamar Johnson and younger brother Sekani played by TJ Wright) when dad was in prison. He offers safety and counter perspective during some tumultuous times.

The cast is huge, but there was not one casting choice that disappointed the character vision that I had in my mind. The actors handled the joy, pain, laughter, and sadness of their roles in this moving, relevant story. I polled around to audience members before the advance screening, and although few had read the book in advance, many planned to after watching the film. They were very much engaged with the story, with cheers, applause, gasps, yells, and tears – both during and following the showing.

Starr is the lone witness to her childhood friend being killed by an officer at a traffic stop – not a spoiler, this is the plot point of the film. The movie deals with what that means not only to Starr and her family, but to the whole community at large, in both Garden Heights and in Williamson.

The Hate U Give is going to get people talking and it’s important that they do. As a young adult story, it keeps to its PG-13 rating for its challenging subject matter including violence. But really, with headlines as they are these days, the less than R rating allows it to be a story for an even younger audience, just be prepared to honestly talk about some hard topics. If the dialogue hasn’t already started in your home, it’s time.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 5, 2018.

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