Beyond the Lights Movie Review
Beyond the Lights is the kind of movie that reminds you why you should watch movies you don't always want to watch. About the pressures of a pop star who wants to be so much more, the movie appealed to me so little that I considered not even reviewing it at all. But I said I would, so I watched it, and not only am I reviewing it right now, I am actually writing a positive review.
Lights stars the gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was last seen in the almost-generic-but-not-quite period piece Belle. She's traded in corsets and long dresses for barely-there outfits you'd expect from a breakout pop star in an age where sex sells, perhaps even more than the music.
Noni is her name, and the pressures of acting like someone she's not have driven her to attempt suicide. Thankfully there's a hunky police officer (Nate Parker) there to save the day... and the two become lovers, despite the disapproval of her domineering mother/manager (Minnie Driver).
The plot is in some ways cheeseball, but writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) handles the material well, offering up a surprisingly relatable--okay, not relatable, but believable--love drama amidst throngs of paparazzi, tabloids and record producers. It's basically The Bodyguard only without a dangerous stalker.
Beyond the Lights works for many reasons, most notably the chemistry between its two stars. Mbatha-Raw is a good actress and she brings a lot of depth to a character that could have easily come off as not very likeable or approachable in the wrong hands, and Parker is also solid. Paired with a good screenplay and quite a few musical numbers that are surprisingly good, Beyond the Lights has a lot going for it.
The movie is by no means a work of art, nor does it avoid certain stereotypes and clichés, but Beyond the Lights is a good movie... and a movie, based on its premise, that I almost brushed aside like Kanye West does award-winning musicians who aren't Beyonce. Don't make the mistake I almost made.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.