"As God is my witness, I want the best for you and the children. But I have got to do it in my own way."
CROOKLYN is Spike Lees' vibrant semi-autobiographical portrait of a school teacher, her stubborn jazz musician husband, and their five kids living in Brooklyn in 1973. Even for a Spike Lee "Joint", it wasnt the most engaging film I've ever seen. I didnt love it or hate it, but the movie was kind of just there. I think watching this movie was a little hard to swallow considering all the other great works of Spike Lee that I’ve seen before this one. I suppose this is one of the Spike Lee movies I should’ve seen a long time ago. Perhaps, when I first discovered the man back in high school or middle school I can’t remember. Crooklyn, is what I can only assume to be a love letter to Spikes’ childhood growing up in 1970’s Brooklyn. Throughout viewing, I kept thinking to myself just how bad some of those kids were, and I would’ve handled their disrespect and insubordination a lot differently than what I got in this movie.
Even if it wasn’t my favorite film of his long resume, there is a great deal that I can appreciate about it. I myself, have even had stories of my own I wanted to tell in a semi autobiographical way about my own life growing up in a small country town in Southeast Louisiana. I'd just center it more around my adolescent of puberty years, or the years when I started to discover many things that would make me the man I am today. I can also appreciate the desire for attention from the opposite sex, and the growing pains of stealing snacks from the local convience store. Other aspects of the film hit very close to home with me. Even though I can't really relate to the whole sibling rivalry thing, as I grew up an only child. The rich sense of community so vividly depicted, and the 70s soul music which makes this film something much like a jukebox musical, coupled with the intimacy of Lee's visual realism. In any case, I thought the cast was fine, especially that of Alfre Woodard, and Delroy Lindo. I had never heard of Zelda Harris before this movie but she was great as the films protagonist. It is my understanding that this film is written by Lee’s sister and former, frequent collaborator, Joie Lee, which makes a great deal of sense. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of guys writing parts for female leads and seeing how those could play out.
Crooklyn serves as an intimate portrait of family life and a recollection of days gone by, in a city that might as well be a foreign country. One of the highlights and heroes of this movie was it’s soundtrack that feature many famous R&B/soul songs. Also, I'd like to mention that as a story teller, my man Spike knows how and where to place a camera to make for some interesting shots, and present certain characters in specific lights. To borrow a small snippet from another reviewer, who put it more eloquently than myself; "...interesting and innovative cinematic imagery. The cinematography Lee employs in Crooklyn helps to create fantastic -sometimes even cartoon-like- environments in which his characters spring to life and thrive. His dollying techniques (placing actors on dollies), lens choice, and manipulation of color conspire to add special characteristics to this film. This is a great film to watch not only for Lee's ability to highlight the beauty of the quotidian in his storytelling, but also for the aesthetic qualities that Lee produces with his rich filmic vocabulary." The production design was just perfect enough to not be overbearing, and comes courtesy of the now Oscar winning, Ruth E. Carter. Crooklyn as a whole, was entertaining enough, but honestly not the most interesting, or at least not as interesting as it could've been. On the other hand, I thought this was a very personal, heartwarming and somewhat funny movie that also touched on very real social issues. It comes recommended, albeit not highly, for fans of coming of age dramas, semi-autobiographical pieces, fans of cast members of Alfre Woodard Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee and his collaborator Joie Lee, who also shows up in a minor role as our protagonists Aunt.
Despite focusing on the beauty of someone’s youth, and upbringing, and despite there being a lot you can learn from it, Crooklyn is not a Ricky Nixx film.
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Joie Lee , Spike lee
Stars: Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, David Patrick Kelly