So I just saw Queen and Slim Sunday night and side note: I think I was the only person in that theater not with a significant other lmao I didn’t think it was such a date movie. I mean it’s a movie about people killing each other and dying.. but I digress.
I heard about Queen and Slim in production back in February and it quickly became one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I’m a huge fan of Lena Waite. I think what she’s doing with The Chi is incredible and she’s also a talented actor with range as seen on Master of None. So when I heard that she was writing and producing a film with Daniel Kaluuya (One of my favorite actors of the decade) in the starring role, I instantly became excited.
First I’m gonna start with the good:
- This film was made with LOVE
- From the beginning to end you can easily feel the combined passion of the multiple themes in the film beautifully represented by the pacing, story, and artistic direction of Melina Matsoukas (director) and Lena Waithe (writer and producer).
- There are clear messages within the film that are for up for multiple interpretations and if you know me, you know that movies that encourage critical discourse is my secret film love language. A few examples of the themes presented were:
- The juxtaposition of the two different class backgrounds of Queen and Slim and how it developed them as people
- Black love and how the importance of healthy support and respect can have a profound effect on both partners
- Morality and how doing something technically “wrong” but in self defense was seen as an heroic feat for black people and why it is seen as heroic
- The use of music at key points through the film (I’ll talk more about this later)
- However, they don’t just throw them in your face. They don’t assume the viewers are stupid which I really appreciate because throughout the film you see themes of morality, hope, romance, racism, and much more that takes more than just a viewing at face value for you to really think about and ponder. You can tell that the director and producer really care about the story they are trying to tell. It’s more than just an updated version of Bonnie and Clyde, but more like a passion project that is somewhat of a homage to the film it is loosely based on.
- This movie was made and written by black women for black women.
- One of the highlights of the film is the development of Queen/Angela’s character (Jodie Turner-Smith). In the beginning, the film shows her as a successful yet heavily guarded lawyer finally giving a random tinder date the time of day after his multiple attempts to get her attention. Her guarded nature comes off as judgmental and shallow towards Slim/Ernest (Daniel Kaluuya). However, throughout the film, the layers of her character are peeled back at a balanced pace. We start to learn more about her personal life, and what has shaped her into the woman she became. I love this because the development makes her much more of a three-dimensional character. You really begin to invest yourself in who she is. You see that deep down inside she’s incredibly hurt and seeking a way to make sense of the intense trauma she had experienced growing up.
- The writing on her character is simply fantastic. Waite put so much of her screenplay skills into Queen/Angela that you sometimes even forget that there’s another main character in the story (which I’ll get more into later). Her backstory isn’t force-fed to us. But, through key events in the film we learn more about who she is as a person. And even as the story progresses you see her change and grow into almost a completely different person by the end of the movie. In a film and television industry that is dominated by men (specifically white men), it is so REFRESHING to see a movie that not only is written and directed by black women, but has a main character that is a fully fleshed out black woman.
- The use of music is AMAZING
- I love music, and movies that use music in an artistic manner always catches my heart. The music is used in such strategic ways that it amplifies the intensity of the scenes and gives greater importance and context to them. When I did my research and learned that the director is known for her work with music videos it made so much more sense to me.
- An example I can think of is in towards the beginning of the film after Queen and Slim drive off after Slim killed the cop and he’s is blasting “The Best In Me” by Marvin Sapp in the car. The song represented the enormous amount of guilt he was feeling and his attempt to try to rationalize his actions by reminding himself that he will always be forgiven by God no matter what mistakes he makes. On the other hand, you could also see it as an underlying message the director is trying to tell us which is that God always sees the best in you despite your wrong-doings. (This is what I mean by multiple interpretations).
- Also when they make a quick stop at a live music bar in George you can hear Guarding the Heart by Lauryn Hill in the background as Queen and Slim dance hand in hand. The scene pretty much looks like a music video (which again makes sense with the director’s history) and you can easily feel an amalgamation of multiple emotions resulting in the two falling in deep love with each other despite the turmoil their lives are in.
And now for the bad…
- The movie is predictable AF
- If you’ve seen Bonnie and Clyde you pretty much know how it’ll end. And even if you aren’t a huge movie nerd like me and you have common sense you can tell how it’ll end pretty quickly. Part of me wishes it wasn’t a loose adaptation of Bonnie and Clyde because it seems that it was a bit limited because of the film it was based on. I think if it was an original story Lena could have done SO much more with the characters and story. Sometimes I felt that she was playing it a bit safe because of the already seen premise in film.
- It perpetuates the narrative that Black Trauma sells
- Don’t get me wrong, I think the theme of police brutality/racism in black film is very important to present to the mass through various forms of media. However, it seems that it’s starting to become a little too prominent. Let’s take The Hate U Give for example. Great movie. One of my favorites of 2018 to be honest. But now this year we have Queen and Slim, and next year there’s apparently another film with the police brutality premise and it’s starting to look like this will be a yearly tradition for black film. One thing about me is that I HATE slave movies. It’s overdone and there is much more to the history of African-Americans than just slavery. I do understand the historical significance behind the narrative and how so many slave stories are important to tell because they weren’t told with the same fidelity in history books, especially in predominantly white schools. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only history to tell. Trauma and pain sells and it pushes actors to their limits in their career. But I think actors can still do that with other stories of black history. What if we had more movies with the premise of the Harlem Renaissance or even a simple love story like The Photograph with Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield? It just frustrates me that the black movies that get the most attention always involve trauma and violence against black bodies.
- Slim gets little to no character development
- Remember how I said that Queen was beautifully written with so much nuance and depth? Well Slim wasn’t. It seems that his entire character was pretty much based on Queen. His motivation for running was because Queen basically told him and forced him to. His desire for love is based on how he wants to help Queen heal from her trauma and comfort her.We don’t really know much about him except that at first he is presented as someone from a low- income background but in fact he actually comes from a well-off family… but that’s pretty much it. I wish that aspect of his life was explored more because I found it interesting how humble he was about his upbringing and there could have been more to that if the story allowed it. There are several points in the film where there were hints of his backstory that he briefly talks about that such as the “mistakes” he made, but those hints are about as far as it goes. The lack of writing on his character is almost a disservice to Kaluuya because he’s such a damn good actor. Besides Get Out, he had a great in- depth role in an episode of Black Mirror and he played the role of the merciless right-hand man to the crime boss Jamaal Manning (played by Brian Tyree Henry) almost perfectly in Widows. I’m not saying he did a bad job in his role, but he did as much as the writing allowed him to which held him back from really showing his acting prowess as he had done in previous films. Like I said before, the writing and direction by black women is shown in Queen’s character, but it also shows in the imbalance of development in Slim’s character. I get that they wanted to focus so much on the black woman because, well they’re black women. But, that left Slim to have not much of a character because so much of the focus was on Queen.
Overall, Queen and Slim was everything I expected it to be, which can be good and bad. I knew the writing and acting would be awesome because of the talent involved. But I also knew that there were going to be limitations because of the predictable premise and other small factors involved. At the end of the day, I thought it was great. I think movies that really make you analyze them yet still enjoy them with the good and bad are very impressive. I don’t really do scores because I just don’t think I have enough clout in my movie reviewing game lmao. But if I were to give it a score I would give it an 8 out of 10. Go see it and feel free to tell me what you think on my Instagram @Mr.Suaray. Don’t forget to share this page and tell others about carefreekhalil.com!!