“… did a great job of ‘cliff-notes’-ing the story for mass consumption.”
Well, I finally watched Straight Outta Compton and I absolutely loved it. For those unfamiliar, Straight Outta Compton is a biopic about the rap group N.W.A , and each of its members. I’m not sure what it was that I loved so much about the film, because all of it worked so well together. The subject, the acting, the direction, and even the focus on external issues all made this film one hell of a ride.
First I want to talk about the subject of the film: N.W.A. Now I am a fan of rap, as well as a fan of N.W.A, but I didn’t know much about the band. Seeing their rise and all of the trials and tribulations that came with it was inherently interesting to me. The film clocks in at around two hours and forty-five minutes so not everything can be covered (of course), but I feel that the film did a great job of ‘cliff-notes’-ing the story for mass consumption. I do have a slight problem and that problem manifests itself as the lack of the ‘Dee Barns’ incident. Now, I understand that not everything could have been covered, but the Dee Barnes story was cut not only for time but because it changed the narrative of Dr. Dre’s character in the film. This isn’t a huge issue, but I am disappointed that the director opted to cut this story in favour of a distorted narrative. I also understand that Dr. Dre was producer on this film, and you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you, but I am a huge proponent of the “Warts and All” approach to biographical works because I feel that omitting something as large as the Dee Barnes story is a disservice to all parties. I’m not just picking on Dr. Dre, I’m sure there were other stories that were cut that showed other members in a less-than-great light, I’m just using the Dee Barnes story as an example of what the film was lacking in my opinion.
On a lighter note (depending on your definition of ‘lighter’), let’s talk about the acting. One word to describe the performances in Straight Outta Compton would be “phenomenal”. Right from the beginning the actors disappeared and I was only watching the members of N.W.A. Even thought the film favoured the “flagship members” (Ice Cube, Eazy E, Dr. Dre), every single person did an amazing job at disappearing into their roles and delivering absolutely breathtaking performances. And when the story called for it, which it did on a few occasions, these actors were able to give some deeply emotional performances. I don’t cry often when I watch movies, but Straight Outta Compton had me on the verge of tears many times, and that is a sentence that I never expected to say.
This brings me to my next point: Straight Outta Compton had no right to be as good as it was. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, I just mean that when I saw the trailers it looked like the average biopic and the subject didn’t look like it would lend too much ‘excitement’ to the film. I really enjoyed the way the story was told because it seems to add so much to what could have been a forgettable film. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of many social issues in the film, because the same things are happening today so the film couldn’t have been more relevant if it tried. One thing that I kept noticing was the police in the film. I’m not making any assumptions, but the way the police were portrayed in Straight Outta Compton made them look fucking awful. Of course in this narrative, they are fucking awful (why else would the band release a song titled “Fuck the Police”) but it really seemed like the guys from N.W.A were being borderline beaten by cops on a daily basis. If this was actually how it happened, I will gladly eat my words, but to me it seemed a little ‘in your face’ showcasing the “police are assholes” narrative.
Straight Outta Compton chronicled an entire journey of the band members of N.W.A, and clocking it at almost three hours it was not short; but watching the film seemed like it went by in a flash. It could have been because the movie had so much story packed into a small container, or it could have been because of how well it was made; whatever it was it made Straight Outta Compton an absolute delight to watch.
Ultimately Straight Outta Compton is a film that managed to chronicle the history of N.W.A while tackling social issues that remain prevalent to this day. With spectacular performances, great writing, and an interesting story Straight Outta Compton is a wonderful film that will not be soon forgotten.
I give Straight Outta Compton an A