Magazine article Screen International

Beyond the Lights

Magazine article Screen International

Beyond the Lights

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Gina Prince-Bythewood. US. 2014. 116mins

The sheer up-and-coming star power of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who made such an impact in Amma Assante's excellent Belle) is the driving force in Gina Prince-Bythewood's music-industry melodrama, a rather watchable film that is reminiscent of The Bodyguard (sans the stalker sub-plot) that also works well as warm-hearted romance with soap opera elements.

At heart it is a rather old-fashioned love story that makes strong points about simplistic sexualisation of young women in the music business while also reinforcing romance over sex.

Beyond The Lights - a rather unmemorable title in truth - screened at Toronto and is set to open in the US in November, and if handled well could attract an audience, especially if marketing makes the most of its music world backdrop, rather old-fashioned romance and Mbatha-Raw's charisma. Writer/director Prince-Bythewood (who made Love And Basketball) has come up with a rather old-fashioned romantic-drama that looks good, snipes nicely at the crassness of the music biz and hits the high notes when it comes to the tentative romance between Mbatha-Raw's young singing star and Nate Parker's gentle cop.

The film, though, may confuse the audience who see its trailer with its opening scenes in dank and gloomy London of the 1990s, where wild-haired school-girl Noni (India Jean-Jacques) belts out a beautiful version on Nina Simone's Blackbird at a talent contest. Her determined mother (Minnie Driver) is angry that she only comes second, which sets the scene for the rest of the film.

Fast-forward several years and grown-up Noni (Mbatha-Raw), all tight clothes and a purple weave, is collecting a music biz award, having had a series of hits with rapper boyfriend, Kid Culprit (Colson "Machine Gun Kelly" Baker). But all is not well with her, and back in her high-rise suite she sits out on the balcony and mulls over jumping. She is saved, however, by good-natured Kaz (Nate Parker), an LAPD officer assigned to guard her room.

There is a mutual attraction, and while reluctantly agrees to go along with the agreed line that she slipped while on the balcony, they both become obsessed with each other. He is being groomed for political offer by is cop father (Danny Glover), but he is drawn to this feisty yet rather troubled young woman, much to the annoyance of her manager mother who only has eyes on Noni's solo album rather than her daughter's well-being. …

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