Opinion: ‘Queen & Slim’ Is a Hollow Black Lives Matter-Fueled Saga

Opinion: ‘Queen & Slim’ Is a Hollow Black Lives Matter-Fueled Saga

The Daily Beast’s entertainment reporter Cassie de Costa isn’t too impressed with the new Black Hollywood film “Queen & Slim.”. credit: Universal Pictures

The Daily Beast’s entertainment reporter Cassie de Costa isn’t too impressed with the new film “Queen & Slim.” The “Bonnie and Clyde”-like tale stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. But there’s a twist. The pair are on the run after killing a racist white cop. Sounds like it could be intriguing and message filled, but according to daCosta, the film “is all style and little substance.”

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Some film critics like Amy Nicholson of FilmWeek enjoyed the movie She raved: “I think it is a thrilling debut [for director Melina Matsoukas]…You fall in love with this couple.” And while some on Twitter have been taken in by the film’s love story, others are disappointed in the film’s lack of depth. As one tweet read: “I appreciated the cinematography & celebration of dark brown skin. However, the recapitulation of destructive, dominant narratives of black folk, trauma bonding as love, plotline holes, lack of character development & overall trauma porn left me angered.”

Still, de Costa thinks the film was a missed opportunity to be something more than a throwaway flick. According to de Costa, the film “unfortunately, rings frustratingly false, from the stilted dialogue to the gorgeously retro threads, which are wedded with an undulating wave of seriousness that tells us how much these Black lives are in threat. Don’t be fooled by the film’s strong ideas—they come from the Black Lives Matter and prison abolition movements that have fought for the rights not only of those deemed innocent, but those who are, like all of us, human.”

The problem, wrote de Costa, is in Lena Waithe’s script. Waithe, wrote de Costa, “rather than creating a language for these ideas that is born out of life, follows mainstream movie convention, with characterization that relies on shorthand rather than imagination to get the talking points across. And, said de Costa, director Melina Matsoukas, who has directed much of the TV series “Insecure” as well as music videos like for Beyoncé’s “Formation,” “never manages to make the story otherwise cohere—we get a series of stylized vignettes with gorgeously lit Black actors in highly competent costuming, not much more.”

The film is actually based on a story by the disgraced writer James Frey (who faked much of his memoir `’A Million Little Pieces’ for commercial gain) and Waithe.

And de Costa isn’t too impressed with Frey’s “Queen & Slim” story. She wrote: “The story itself evades mastery. It goes like this: A white cop, who we later find out shot a Black man who was walking his kid to school, shoots Queen, a defense attorney, in the leg during what TV media often inexplicably calls a ‘routine’ traffic stop. In an attempt to protect her and himself, Slim shoots the cop, killing him. The couple were at the tail end of their first date, which hadn’t gone very well; now, they must make a life together in their run from the law.”

For de Costa it is the purpose of the film that rings false. Yes, we all know about racists cops and, according to de Costa, the film is superficial. She critiqued, “there is not much in the film beyond that simple act of representation. Here you go, ‘Queen & Slim’ seems to say to Black Americans, have your trophy.”

She concluded: “The film presupposes violence, which makes sense. We live in a violent society, in which Black people, specifically, are most likely to be on the receiving end of that violence when enacted by the state. But the film also presupposes itself in that its existence is necessitated only by its existence; it is self-contained, uninspired, and, at the very end, tries to make us forget. It is a gesture toward a film, a thesis about a film, a meme, a montage, a well-executed Vimeo staff pick. It falls short, wagering that many Black people, grasping for this very story to be told or ‘represented,’ will lift it up.”