The Hate U Give Review: A Must-Watch That Stands Meaningfully Apart From Its Source Material
Adapted from the Angie Thomas novel of the same name, the film follows protagonist Starr, who, following the shooting and subsequent death of her childhood friend by a police officer, must decide whether to speak out and potentially rip her community apart or stay silent and betray the memory of her friend. Powerful, moving and well-shot, the film tackles the ideas of racial profiling, police brutality, and the reverberating social effects that they can have. At the crux of the film lays Tupac Shakur’s motif that THUG LIFE stands for The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody (hence the title), conveying the idea that in mistreating and marginalising certain members of society, we are creating our own problems, as they have no choice but to act out later in life.
The Hate U Give wastes no time warming its audience up – it jumps straight in with racial tensions, showing African American protagonist Starr receiving ‘the talk’ from her father on what to should the police ever pull her over. This nicely sets up the theme of racial conflict, as we then follow a conflicted Starr through her daily life at her very white, very middle-class private school, in which she spends every day closely monitoring the way she is perceived, afraid of being labelled a ‘hood rat’ or ‘ghetto’ by her classmates. This fragile balance is threatened when her friend is wrongfully shot by a white police officer and she is the only witness. To make matters worse, she is threatened on both sides, by a local gang to keep quiet and indirectly by the local police department – tensions run high and she is unsure what to do.
The film faces the same issue that many movie adaptations of novels face: awkward exposition. Read off a page, information such as where characters live, the status of their parents’ marriage, their everyday life can feel perfectly natural, but can become a little clumsy in its big-screen translation. Some of the dialogue faced this same problem, with many lines being lifted directly from the book. Much of the acting in the first act – particularly from Amanda Stenburg – felt stilted and unbelievable. However, she more than made up for this with her stellar performance when it came to the raw power and emotion of the second and third act, proving the idea that regular life is simply more difficult to make believable than the dramatic, gut-wrenching scenes.
One particularly disappointing character in the film was that of Starr’s boyfriend Chris, who not only did not reach quite the same character arch of his novel counterpart, but was also played by KJ Apa. Though a noteworthy actor, Apa brings little to the character and it feels as if he has been cast solely for his pretty face and bankable name. Anthony Mackie, however, put in a solid performance as the film’s ‘villain’, a ruthless gang leader named King, as did Algee Smith in the role of Khalil, proving you don’t need a lot of lines to make your character memorable.
Ultimately, the ending of the film did not stick too closely to its source material, throwing in some surprise material of its own, gripping both the audience members who knew how the film would end and those who didn’t. The final act of the film is guaranteed to bring tears to the viewer’s eyes, as there is simply so much emotion, and for the most part, things are handled very well, although some areas border on cliché in almost over-explaining themselves – but as a film with such a wide target audience, this is inevitable, as it is essential for all audience members to understand. The Hate U Give is one of those films that truly make you feel something and raises very important questions about today’s society; it’s an important movie that everyone should watch.
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