Friday, April 19, 2013

Gimme the Loot (2013)

Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.

When I saw a trailer for a movie about young graffiti artists trying to bomb the home run apple at Shea Stadium, you know I was totally into it immediately. Luckily, Gimme the Loot came to Kendall for one week and I got to see it! Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson) are two best friends and partners in tagging, living in the Bronx with little money but a lot of connections they hope to exploit to make it big. Malcolm thinks he has a way into Shea Stadium through his brother's boxing buddy, but they need $500 for a bribe. Most of the film tracks the duo's mission for cash over the course of two days, which mostly leads to various mishaps and an ever-growing (and totally called-for) hatred of Queens. And asshole rich people. Because fuck rich people, you know?

Smart, well-paced, emotionally engaging, and just generally charming, Gimme the Loot is a joy to watch despite the fact that bad things keep happening. Like seriously, nothing good happens in this movie, and yet you're left feeling strangely comforted at the end. The leads are so, so good in their roles, so fully embodying these characters, that it's just nice to spend time with them for an hour and twenty minutes. I especially loved Washington as the takes-no-shit Sofia, who is funny, super-tough, and sympathetic. Hickson's character, on the other hand, is endearingly goofy and dumb, and the two make a great pair. As an appropriately awful foil, Zoë Lescaze plays the entitled, aimless, and disgustingly rich Ginnie, who feels like she walked out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. Her life seems far removed from the experiences of Sofia and Malcolm, and while they initially find some common ground, it's eventually made clear that she wants none of their company. And so we are reminded, rich people suck, making this a realistic movie.

It was clearly filmed on a small budget and that mostly works ok, the low-quality digital is a little distracting but it also gives the film this hazy buzz that works well with the overall aesthetic. This is a hot, sweaty summer movie that feels like it could be taking place in the 80's or 90's except for everyone's smartphones, so the slightly fuzzy, yellowed look is appropriate for that vibe. There's also a fun soundtrack and some interesting insights into graffiti culture within New York. At first I wanted more of the actual tagging stuff, but I became so absorbed by Sofia and Malcolm's struggles and relationship development that it didn't really matter. Overall I sincerely enjoyed Gimme the Loot, but have to say I was a little disappointed to see that a nerdy white dude had written and directed it. Not that a white person can't write about different types of people, it's just that when I see a film that's primarily black actors and apparently telling a realistic story of a mostly black community, I'd like to think that a promising black filmmaker is the one holding the reins, you know? Especially because white male directors get to tell everyone's stories, all the time.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Hmm, I'm not sure. If you want a movie that's more involved with street art as a movement there's Beautiful Dreamers or Exit Through the Gift Shop. Or I guess Do the Right Thing is a summery New York movie with racial/class tensions...

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