Fruitvale, the feature film starring Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant has been a big hit with the Hollywood bigshots in Park City for this year's Sundance Film Festival. After a successful premiere on Saturday that prompted multiple studio offers, THR reports the Weinstein Company has picked up the film — Coogler's feature debut — for a cool $2.5 million.
According to Todd McCarthy's review in the Hollywood Reporter, Michael B. Jordan gives a "career-launching" performance that "gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington" as Grant, a 22-year-old trying to straighten his life out to take care of his girlfriend and young daughter after earlier run-ins with the law. The film opens with raw cellphone footage of the shooting by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle early New Year's Day in 2009. (It's unclear from early reviews whether that is the same footage aired on KTVU and other news outlets after the incident, or a simply recreation.) The rest of the film's 85-minute runtime is devoted to telling Oscar's story through flashbacks to his jail time in San Quentin and the events on New Year's Eve 2008 that put Grant on the Fruitvale train platform in Oakland.
[Update: In a less glowing review, Variety's Geoff Berkshire questions the film's depiction of events, saying "...even if every word of Coogler's account of the last day in Grant's life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject. Best viewed as an ode to victim's rights, Fruitvale forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing."]
At 26 years old, Director Ryan Coogler is the same age Grant would have been today, McCarthy notes. In addition to his professional pedigree as a student at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, Coogler also works as a counselor at juvenile hall in San Francisco. Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Chad Michael Murray, Kevin Durand, and Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer all co-star and Forest Whitaker is listed among the producers.
Given the early enthusiasm for the project from such big Hollywood players and the strong reaction Grant's shooting prompted across the Bay Area, we wouldn't be surprised if the film hit local theaters well before it makes a wide release. The film was partially funded by two grants from the San Francisco Film Society and the breathless Hollywood blogs are already jumping to call it "This Year's Beasts Of The Southern Wild" — another stellar indie that came out of nowhere to snag heaps of critical acclaim last year.