Natalie Schroeder | Staff Writer
Last weekend, The Hate U Give opened with a high rating of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has a stacked cast of actors that portray their characters with ease, such as Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie, KJ Apa and Common.
The story follows a young girl named Starr Carter as she tries to balance two versions of herself: the one that lives in the mostly poor black neighborhood of Garden Heights, and the one that attends an affluent, predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep.
The movie opens with a family of five sitting around a table. The father (Russell Hornsby) explains to his young children how to act and react towards an officer. Starr was nine.
The film uses Starr’s narration to push the plot forward. In the opening scene, the narration is used to explain her life and the school she goes to. While she and her siblings could go to the school in Garden Heights, her parents enrolled her at Williamson Prep instead. There are two versions of Starr: Williamson Starr and Garden Heights Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang, she’s an athlete, approachable and non confrontational. Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.
One night Starr agrees to go to a house party in Garden Heights where sudden shots are fired outside the house and her best friend Khalil offers to drive her home. The two are pulled over and things go from bad to worse. Khalil is asked to exit the vehicle and minutes later is shot with Starr still in the passenger seat. Worried about her friend, she gets out and runs to his side, only to be halted and handcuffed by the officer. As Khalil lays on the ground barely alive, Starr sits as close to him as she can and watches him die, pleading with the officer to help him.
From that moment on, the film offers a substantial amount of empowering quotes and important conversations between characters. With the indestructible family dynamic between the Carters, Starr is protected, advised and empowered by her parents and her brothers. The father-daughter relationship is strong between Starr and her father, Maverick. Following the death of Khalil, Maverick sits by her bed awaiting her inevitable nightmares. The movie continues to show this deep relationship and the audience quickly understands that it is one of the few things that keeps her going.
While the movie has likeable characters, it also has characters that are questionable or downright irredeemable. A friend of Starr, Hailey, continues to add to her anger and pain when she suggests that Khalil was dangerous and later suggests that he was a criminal. While it is easy to dislike the character, it is even easier to believe that she can’t see the error in her interpretations.
Stenberg has an incredible screen presence that makes the audience understand and empathize with her character. Stenberg shows so much emotion with the use of no words and very little actions. While speaking up for Khalil who cannot do it himself, she endures threats from a local gang. While this neighborhood is fictional, the acting and scenery make it believable that Starr’s family would have to do whatever they could to protect one another.
Throughout the movie Stenberg gradually morphs the two versions of Starr into one with ease. She changes her voice and mannerisms to reflect who she is, not who she has to be in different circumstances. She no longer flips between the two versions and begins to shine as her true self in Garden Heights and at her school. Starr and her family are victims of more than one threat, the most dangerous being a bullet going through their window. While this alone can frighten a family, the reactions of Starr, her sibling and her mother when Maverick goes outside make the scene much more emotional. With the pacing alerting the audience that eventually someone in the Carter family will be hurt, every interaction between Maverick and the source of the threats makes the audience sink lower in their seats.
Despite being more than two hours long, the film proved to be interesting and captivating throughout. The cast and crew created scenes that realistically portrayed anger and pain after the death of a young man in their community. It is easy to root for Starr when she decides she can’t stay quiet anymore and speaks on behalf of her childhood friend in front of the grand jury, and later when she participates in protests. As the movie goes from chaotic to calm, Starr’s family returns to the safe and joyous atmosphere it was in the beginning of the movie. While Starr has endured pain and grief, her family lifts her up and reminds her that she wasn’t given the name Starr on accident.