In honor of the 2015 BET Awards, where dozens of artists set out to prove every year how viable their music and images are to their thousands of fans…
In 2014, I attended a seminar on Women Writers at the Los Angeles Film Festival where Director Gina Prince Blythewood was a keynote speaker. She revealed at that time “Beyond The Lights” would be her next big feature and spoke to how difficult it was to secure Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the role of Noni. Apparently, the studio execs wanted to take the safe route and secure a “name” in order to sell tickets. Blythewood fought for who she organically felt was the “right” actress for the gig and Mbatha-Raw was cast as Noni.
2015 has turned out to be a stellar year for the Director and her star. Mbatha-Raw had two major studio hit films on her hands (“Belle” “Beyond The Lights”) and this week was invited to be a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences (which will make a one of hundreds of members able to vote for the Oscars). Blythewood was honored by the African-American Film Critics Association (of which I am a member), Woman of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Music Center and many other honors by multiple festivals across the country.
But in 2014, Beyond The Lights was shining the spotlight very brightly on its star and its Director.
Noni is one of the brightest and biggest pop stars on the planet. She has one a Billboard music award even before her CD has dropped and dating one of the biggest rappers (Machine Gun Kelly) in the game. Her “momager” (Minnie Driver) will stop at nothing to make her an even bigger star. The pressure becomes too much for the young superstar. When she attempts suicide off of a hotel balcony, the cop (Nate Parker) assigned to her room saves her life. Little did they know that this one incident will bring them closer together and save them both from themselves.
Gugu Mbatha Raw is a cinematic revelation. Her ability to disappear into whatever character she attempts is inspiring and fascinating to watch. If all that weren’t enough, she does some of her own singing in the film.
Nate Parker’s role of Kaz very easily could’ve been a stereotypical role of the hero, but Parker layers Kaz with a enough vulnerability and strength where the audience finds themselves rooting for him just as much as Noni to overcome. Minnie Driver is brilliant as Noni’s “momager”. She takes that title to a whole new level and you really just want to dropkick Macy Jean each and every single time her face appears on screen.
One of my favorite moments is when Kaz takes Noni to Mexico where she proceeds to cut our her extensions and for the first time honoring who she really is at the core.
Beyond The Lights is a brutally honest portrayal of what life is really like for a recording star a the top of their game and showing all that glitters is really not gold.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to check it out, please do yourselves a favor and run on over to NETFLIX where Beyond The Lights is streaming live!!!