Learning to define oneself by the nature of their surroundings is often easier said than done…
Blindspotting is a poignant yet occasionally clunky tale of social status, redemption and trying to improve upon yourself no matter the surroundings you find yourself in.
Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.
While Blindspotting certainly does have a lot of meaningful and poignant things to say, it lacks the necessary execution to make them hit home in a truly meaningful fashion. There’s hardly anything ‘bad’ in this film but you just can’t shake the feeling that it just could have been a whole hell of a lot better.
As director Carlos Lopes Estrada settles into the director’s chair for the very first time on a feature length motion picture we see the strength in segments of the film that undoubtedly come from his extensive background in short film making but the thread between them is where he comes up a hair short in making something truly epic. He crafts a solid world as these two lifelong residents of Oakland see their neighborhood changing before their eyes and not necessarily for the better. The script from co-stars Diggs and Casal is solid but in segments as it never quite knows if it’s trying to be an over the top satire about gentrification, a straight comedy or a genuine human drama with people trying to reinvent and better themselves out of a situation gone wrong.
In many ways it almost feels like a four or five part short film anthology strung into one, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does cause for the occasional disjointed moment where we as an audience feel compelled to focus on one thing; Like Diggs’s character Collin trying to get off probation and back into his old life but knows that he now can’t having seen the prison system from the inside as a black man but then two seconds later we get a joke about Vegan Burgers in the neighborhood and it never quite has the flow that it is supposed to. All the material fits inside the narrative without a question but it’s just not assembled perfectly…kind of like a bookshelf from IKEA that seems to be fine, but you’ve still got some pieces for it.
The film makes an obviously stellar showcase for Daveed Diggs as the film does in many ways mimic the structure of a musical or even modern type of opera rather then something more traditional from a storytelling standpoint. As Collin he always us as an audience to have a little fun but also feel some of the weight on him as he has some pretty big choices to make in his life. Diggs smartly plays to his strengths for the most part and it shows his innate ability to easily carry a leading role in a feature film, not only through the ability to rap or carry a tune but by actually acting. Sadly his friend and writing partner Rafael Casal couldn’t quite hold up the other end of the relationship as his wanna be ghetto friend Miles. There’s a moment of crisis in the film where the white man, who wants to be and behaves as if he his black is finally confronted with the issues of race and identification around him which was meant to be incredibly poignant and emotional and it only got half way there as the overall material while meaningful and worthy as assembled in far too scattershot a fashion to hit home. Casal has moments but he can’t carry a performance for the entire film.
That being said; Blindspotting still works pretty well as a sly piece of social commentary that allows more some genuinely entertaining moments along with some honest emotionally relevant messages that get hammered home, it just needed a little tightening along the way to be something that could have genuinely talked about during awards season.