April 28, 2015

At A Glance: Patrick Ian Polk's "Blackbird"


Since our interview with Julian Walker a few months ago, I have eagerly anticipated Patrick Ian Polk's next work Blackbird, based on the 1986 novel of the same name. I will say, from jump, that I do recommend you see Blackbird, that it is a great independent work, and that you will find yourself invested in the experience. For me, someone who grew up for a portion of my life in Mississippi, Blackbird, at times, was very easy to relate with.

With Blackbird we are given another work in the very recognizable style of Patrick Ian Polk. That is, a movie containing people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and
quirky moments of comic relief. Where Blackbird is different than Polk's more recent film endeavors is in the cast: a crew of high school students, coming of age and discovering themselves. This makes for some very interesting situations that are delivered, again, in that very Patrick Ian Polk way. Whether it's about religion, STD's, internal struggle, or dating, each vignette is properly packaged and presented in under two hours.

This delivery can be a double edged sword. The pacing was, at times, strange, and I found myself wondering about other characters. We start the movie establishing our main character and his crew, are introduced to their main objectives, get introduced to other characters, learn about them, learn about their struggles, get introduced to yet more characters, and then stop and say, "but wait! What about so-and-so..." By the end, it all wraps up, but one cannot help but feel like too much was being done. So much so, that by one of the final scenes of the movie, I was questioning whether this movie was loosely based on the novel or was just a flat out autobiography of Polk's life. Points, throughout the movie, which had become so disconnected, were easily interwoven by an unexplained supernatural element. Characters who started off as main characters were, later, left to be used as devices to drive the after school special narrative portions of the story, and I wish that the supporting roles had been a little more fleshed out. No doubt, I did find myself entrenched in what was going to happen next, even if parts of the story were a bit contrived. 

As far as performances go, I will say that the acting, by some, was definitely indicative of this film's independent status. Perhaps, that is unfair to say, as I have seen many independent films with amazing acting, but this one had me saying "bless their hearts." I recall saying to my friend afterwards, "I'd like to know the order in which they shot these scenes, because the same people who delivered cringe-worthy line recital, in certain parts (of the film), didn't do so bad in other parts..." 

The writing could be much improved. There were plot elements that just seemed to be thrown in for the sake of drama with no point, and there were situations that were just unbelievable. The friend with whom I went works in the mental health field, and he was bothered with the development of one of the main characters' mental states throughout the movie (no spoilers). 

All in all, however, it's just good to see representation on the big screen, and so far, Polk is leading the way on that, so I applaud him and his work and recommend that if you are a black member of the LGBTQ community, you see this movie. 
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