Talk to me
Cast : Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Direction : Kassi Lemmons
Rating : ***
He was a pivotal presence in the counter-culture movement in Washington DC during the tumultuous 1960s. A miscreant who served several terms in prison, Petey Greene (Cheadle) used his gift of the gab to “tell it like it is” on the local radio station and win the respect of his fellow African-Americans.
Director Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) has created a bittersweet, music-filled biopic of the rowdy deejay who constantly courted controversy by talking fearlessly about the problems of the black community.
Despite some initial setbacks and the cavilling of the on-air programmer (Ejiofor), Petey persisted in giving voice to important national issues. In one of the film’s most eloquent sequences, he calms down rioting Washingtonians with his heartfelt address, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Petey eventually achieved celebrity status, almost single handedly accounting for the radio station’s reversal of fortunes. Like other pop culture icons, he also had to deal with alcohol abuse, besides a tempestuous relationship with his long-time girl friend (Taraji P. Henson, riveting). Both Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor deliver knockout performances.
Besides interspersing archival footage from the era, director Lemmons punctuares the soundtrack with rollicking rhythm and blues/Motown standards by James Brown, The Supremes and Sly and the family Stone. Tune in.