TALK TO ME
Ex-con Ralph 'Petey' Greene (Don Cheadle), with the support of his irrepressible and tempestuous girlfriend Vernell (Taraji P. Hansen), talks and pushes himself into a radio talk show hosting spot on WOL-AM in 1960s Washington DC. He forges a friendship and partnership with the station's programmer Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). From the first wild morning on the air, Petey relies on the more straight-laced Dewey to shield him from management. Combining biting humor with brutally honest social commentary, Petey openly courts controversy for station owner E.G. Sonderling (Martin Sheen). He also plays a role in calming Washington in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination. But when Dewey wants to propel him to major stardom, Petey becomes uncomfortable and they split.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor make a terrific duo, first as enemies, then as colleagues and finally as partners - until the partnership self destructs. Taraji P. Hansen is the firecracker girlfriend to Petey, a girl whose funky, sexy clothes announce her persona in capital letters. Cheadle makes a great emotional journey and Ejiofor stays with him all the way, in a biopic that straddles the social and political upheavals of the 60s to the 80s in America. From civil rights to Vietnam, the environment is explosive; Petey's voice is both raw, street-guttural and sensible. This is the contrast that makes his character interesting, since he's a recently released con. But that's what gives the street cred Washingon's masses respond to, at a time of enormous social unrest.
It's a true story and like all true stories, it has a sting that fiction can rarely match. Martin Sheen comes along with a nicely tuned bombastic performance as the outraged white radio station owner always ready to listen to the cash register, and the stand ins for both James Brown and Johnny Cash are shot at a distance, allowing us to connect with the real ones via archival footage.
The only thing that doesn't quite work is the subplot involving Dewey's jailed brother Milo (Mike Epps); this is how Petey gets to know Dewey, but it's drawn out into a dead end which provides the schmaltzy finale the film doesn't need.
One of the film's in-built pleasures is the soundtrack, which revives songs of the era that have their own place in musical history, ranging from the Johnny Carson Show theme (written by Paul Anka and Carson) to Hold on I'm Comin' (by Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and the opening song, It's a Man's Man's Man's World, by James Brown.
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TALK TO ME (M)
CAST: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bruce McFee, Mike Epps, Peter MacNeill, Adam Gaudreau, Taraji P. Henson, Cedric The Entertainer, Martin Sheen
PRODUCER: Joe Fries, Mark Gordon, Sidney Kimmel, Josh McLaaughlin
DIRECTOR: Kasi Lemmons
SCRIPT: Michael Geet, Rick Famuyiva
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephane Fontaine
EDITOR: Terilyn A. Shropshire
MUSIC: Terence Blanchard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Warren Alan Young
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2008
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.