Queen & Slim
If you're like this movie-lover, you start making predictions right away, from the opening scenes. In Queen & Slim, we open to witness a Tinder date going poorly. But you know these two are going to fall in love, right? The draw is not knowing how it will happen. We want to know. We're already pulling for them and trying to imagine what the catalyst will be, how the facades will crumble away.
Daniel Kaluuya's character, who is never referred to as Slim, is without pretense, if cautious in his efforts to discover the chink in the formidable armor of Jodie Turner-Smith's character, who is never referred to as Queen.
But alas, the date is a bust. He's driving her home - his license plate reads "Trust God" - when fateful events unfold. A rogue, racist cop pulls them over and the first stones of dismay and disbelief tumble and trigger an avalanche of fear, action, and reaction. We're on the street, battered and wounded with these young people and a dead cop. What now?
In spite of (or maybe because of) a brief revelation of their backstories, it's shocking to see that she - let's call her Queen - went so far to antagonize the cop, and he - yes, Slim - agreed to abandon faith and family and run.
But they did, and we've got a movie.
We run with Queen & Slim and get to know them as they get to know each other. They are closer to Thelma and Louise than Bonnie and Clyde, but in any case, the sun begins to rise on the understanding that, barring a fantastic combination of of luck and serendipity, this is not going to end well.
Luck and serendipity do not totally abandon these two, and so along the way, we get a glimpse of why such a duo might become folk heroes, and how we all might bend the facts, or fill in the blanks, to make Queen & Slim who we want them to be.
Witness their transformation - visually stunning thanks of course to Melina Matsoukas's music industry sensibilities.
Queen & Slim is uneven in the performances as Kaluuya hits every note, working our hearts and minds. Turner-Smith not so strong in her acting skills - some clunky dialogue didn't help her cause. Nevertheless, her presence, her stunning beauty, her backstory as it's fleshed out, are compelling.
Queen & Slim is heartbreaking and sobering. A love story whose backdrop comes to the fore.
8 out of 10 Whiskers
Daniel Kaluuya in Queen & Slim