I thought Talk to Me was okay, marked by some good acting work, a couple powerful scenes, and a neat look back into my city’s past.

Don Cheadle got some early awards buzz for his portrayal of Petey Greene, a DC talk show host in the 60s and 70s. Petey is a fast-talking, take-no-crap, calls-’em-like-he-sees-’em, ex-con who talks his way into a radio DJ gig then onto TV and a stand-up career. Chiwetel Ejiofor is Dewey Hughes, the station manager who first gives Petey his break and then acts as his manager. Taraji Henson is Petey’s loud and long suffering girlfriend.

The story follows Petey as a hesitant and petulant rising star while Dewey tries to guide him and keep him in line. It’s a story that’s been told in some form a thousand times before made somewhat unique by Petey’s big personality. There are some interesting components here, particularly looking at race relations. Despite playing soul and Motown and aiming towards a black audience, the station is owned and run by whites. Martin Sheen is the station owner and represents the powerful white man even though he’s probably the most progressive white boss in movie history. There’s also tension between Petey and Huey as Petey thinks Huey acts white. All in all fairly interesting but also fairly forgettable.

The best part of the film comes with the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Petey breaks the news to his radio audience then mans the microphone all night fielding calls. As anger overflows into the streets, he does his best to talk the rioters down from their rage. The community’s fury and pain is palpable and powerful. It’s one of the best scenes of the year.

I also enjoyed stepping back into DC of the 60s and 70s. It wasn’t as big of a period transformation as one might see in a bigger budget flick, but it’s a city that rarely gets a cinematic historical look beyond Capitol Hill.

I think in a lesser year the acting performances would have a good shot at recognition and Oscar nominations. As it is, all have received kudos from a few critics associations but I think, especially now that all have been shut out of the Golden Globes and SAGs (though Cheadle and Ejiofor got Spirit Awards nominations), that they are all out of the Oscar picture.

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