22 October 2011
Crooklyn:A Spike Lee Joint!
The movie Cooklyn is said to be an unusual Spike Lee film. Being that Spike Lee is known for his racially provocative and controversial movies, Crooklyn was much more laid back. Written by Lee himself along with his siblings:Cinque Lee and Joie Lee to display a version of their own childhood experiences growing up in the 1970's in Brooklyn. It is a coming of age story in a sense surrounded by family life. I was probably drawn to this movie because I am a New Yorker myself. Crooklyn takes you into the life of the struggling Carmichael family mostly through the eyes of the youngest of five children and only girl Troy. The head of the household the Father played by Delroy Lindo named Woody was once a successful Jazz musician and is now struggling to be on his own. The Mother named Carolyn played by Alfre Woodard is a school teacher struggling to keep food on the table and make ends met. The parents struggle to keep their fire lit in their relationship as well as raise five children and pay bills.
The editing is quite remarkable in this film. The opening scene is a series of medium shots showing the individuals in the neighborhood doing things on a summer day. Mostly the children playing games and the adults talking. There are a few overhead crane shots of the neighborhood overview and young girls playing double dutch. Then it all comes to a halt when the Father Woody blows a large horn to call his children in for dinner. Just seeing the unstructured lifestyle of these individuals makes you immediately see their financial struggle. In the opening dinner scene you see the pent up frustration, underlying anger and pressure the Mother is under. As well as the confusion and dysfunctional behaviors that the children experience everyday. The Mother's frustration boils over when she returns home with her husband at four in the morning to find the kitchen unclean and take to yelling and screaming at them to clean it up.
Troy is the only girl and the youngest child at nine years old with four older brothers. Brooklyn is a mixed neighborhood so we see her best friend is Hispanic and they are always together. Meanwhile it is not completely free of racial tension when Troy hangs out with neighborhood girls we see them disrespect each other racially. The Puerto Rican girl automatically has better hair and being of a different race meaning that she's prettier. There are other racial tensions with the adults as well especially with their neighbor Tony who is a weird man who has many dogs. At one point the Mother Carolyn gets into an argument with Tony the neighbor over her him accusing her son of throwing trash in his yard. During this intense argument scene the audience sees a side shot of her face and Tony's then it zooms out to show both of them in front of each other.
Seeing the struggle through the little girl Troy's eyes makes the audience understand it in a different light. Being that she is naive and unaware of what is really occurring even though she knows its bad. For example there is a scene where Troy is walking back from the corner store with a bag of candy. As Troy approaches her home she sees the tenant Vic who shares her Brownstone getting arrested. As the camera follows her and then zooms in on her facial expression before you see the cop car you feel her shock and sadness as she watches what is occurring. In the mist of the confusion Troy and her neighbor Vic share a glance and you understand what they are feeling at the same time.
Troy tries to fit in and grow up with her peers around her so when her girlfriend steals from the corner stores she tries and gets caught. When the store owner approaches her about it we see the camera at a reverse shoulder angle eyeline match between him and Troy as they talk. Then the camera slides over from the store owner to a standing employee who replies "send her to jail". Troy is told not to return until she had some money and leaves. In the following scene Troy is seen at a side facing angle next to a mirror stuffing her shirt to make non existent breast appear. Since she is teased by her brothers by being called flat chested. The camera zooms into the side of Troy's face and then angles towards the mirror view of Troy putting her hands in her shirt.
Troy's parents at one point were on the verge of divorce after a physical altercation when the Mother was attempting to tell the boys to turn off the television. Her son refused and she went to hit him then being picked up by her husband to remove her until she had calmed down. It was a series a shots which shows the chaotic scene of Carolyn being carried against her will to the stairwell and being pulled down until her husband yells stop. Meanwhile, the camera switched to the bathroom door where Troy was exiting during the fight. The series of cuts was done well because the audience was able to see the facial expressions of the entire family during the fight. As well as catching Troy exiting the bathroom as her Brother knocks on the door repeatedly to use it.
Troy experiences nightmares at one point of these two glue-sniffing neighborhood teens chasing her through the street. The editing is great because you really feel lie you are in her dream. It is a frontal shot of Troy ahead of the two teens in a night time foggy haze. The boys catch up her making her sniff the glue by putting a brown bag over her mouth and telling her to inhale. Suddenly as if she is high you see Troy body floating face forward towards the camera as the camera zooms out. The boys stand on the grown and diminish in the distance in an overhead shot.
Towards the end of the movie Troy is sent to go visit her cousin Viola down south who is adopted by her Aunt Song and Uncle Clem. She finally experiences a functional family for the most part and she rejects the change and wants to go home. After returning home she finds out that her mother is in the hospital and very sick. It turns out that she has the cancer and the family is devestated by her sickness. Carolyn passes away and Troy is the new Mother of the household. A very sad ending for this struggling family, but somehow they find a way to continue on. Although this is not the happiest movie it has alot of meaning and shows alot of strength through difficult situations.