When you are younger, current events are things that the grownups talk about. It is not until you approach your teenage years that you fully begin to comprehend how these things impact you. Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give is a movie aimed at a younger demographic. However, its message is important to all ages.
THUG tells a depressing story that could have been ripped from today’s headlines. Starring Amandla Stenberg as high school student Starr Carter, the movie is about a young black girl who sees a childhood friend get killed by a police officer during what seems to be a routine – if confusing – stop. Starr’s life is turned upside down as she tries to decide who she is and what she should do.
Most obviously, THUG deals with the racial aspects of the shooting. There are many discussions of self identity and what it means to be black in modern America. In many scenes (especially in the movie’s finale) THUG does a fantastic job of dealing with the issue with sensitivity. Where the film succeeds is that it does not rely on cheap tactics that will automatically generate sympathy. The movie deals with the incident through its strong narrative instead of attempting to manipulate the audience’s emotions.
THUG also recognizes that the issue between police and society goes beyond racial divide. This is as much a class issue as it is a racial one. This is also handled with great sensitivity, for the most part. Characters never point out their social status. Instead, director George Tillman Jr. cleverly mixes in shots of big houses in suburbia with the run down homes of Garden Heights. It is in the moments when the film does not talk down to its audience that its message can truly be appreciated.
Unfortunately, when THUG does decided to deliver its message in a more confrontational manner, it takes away from the film. Racism and class divide are two issues that by their nature will be in your face. Just telling the story puts the message in the audience’s face. The movie constantly tries to push 2Pac as some sort of forward thinking champion of equal rights and has an odd scene where the normally thoughtful Starr uses physicality to prove a point. Moments like these come off as out of place and contradictory.
This also is true with how THUG portrays the media. Throughout the movie the audience sees various news reports of the tragic shooting. How the event is covered is very realistic and the film does a great job of showing how the wording in a news report will affect how people think. However, lack of social media is surprising. The internet has a powerful voice and the events of the movie touch people of all ages. Now more than ever, people are getting their news from non traditional outlets. How these outlets change how people think would have been a welcome addition to the film.
THUG also has some issues with pacing. Initially, the story flows well and characters are introduced nicely. Audiences immediately get to know about Starr and and the two different worlds she lives in. (Starr goes to a private school and makes sure not to act “ghetto” but lives in a less affluent part of town.) The writing is tight which makes the last part of the film so confusing. The film begins to move at a haphazard pace, relying on deus ex machinas and unnecessary subplots to further its story. The first part of the movie draws its audience in. The third act constantly has audiences asking, “how did that just happen?”
The Hate U Give does its best in dealing with a very sensitive subject. The movie is at its best when using storytelling and self discovery. When throwing the already depressing subject in its audience’s face, it comes off as clumsy while forcing an agenda. THUG has an important message, it just needs to be told in a better way.