An awkward first Tinder date turns into a modern day Bonnie and Clyde in Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim. “Queen” (Jodie Turner-Smith) is, in her own words, an excellent lawyer. “Slim” (Daniel Kaluuya) works at Costco. The unlikely pair are forced to team up when a racist police officer pulls them over and the routine traffic stop turns violent. (CPG 5/5)
Review by Carlotta Plys-Garzotto
Queen & Slim is about many things, but it focuses heavily on police brutality. Screenplay writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsouka are both women of color, and comprehensively articulate the issues that have been happening in America for decades. This film tackles real history, depicting Black Lives Matter protests and the senseless murders of black people by the police, as well as the failure to convict these murderers.
Beyond the political themes Queen & Slim tackle, the film is also about human connection and love. Which, I think, is why it’s important that it starts with a Tinder date specifically. Everyone in our society wants to connect so badly, and although many of our technological advancements are meant to increase communication, there is an epidemic of loneliness right now.
Queen & Slim updates a classic “on-the-run” movie trope by breathing life,power, meaning, and the relevance of right now into it. To successfully create a piece of art that makes an audience feel as much as this film is rare.
The cinematography used was extremely effective in giving the audience the scared and anxious feelings Queen and Slim were dealing with throughout.Very prolonged shots that make the audience wait, breathless, truly not knowing what’s going to happen next. Similarly, the aliveness, thrill, and love were communicated successfully. Queen and Slim hanging out the window of the car, the sun on their faces, laughing.
It is clear that intense research and thought went into every piece of the movie. Even the details in the film have details. The imagery and themes are constant and recurring–there are no loose ends or unrealistic moments that take the audience out of the moment. I found myself completely enthralled for the entire 2 hour and 12 minute film–literally, I did not have one stray thought or distracted second.
Queen & Slim is one of those one-in-a-million films where you leave unable to think about anything else. There is drama, comedy, terror, romance…every emotion possible, and that’s because as you watch, you really feel as though you’re in it. It takes you on the 6 day whirlwind journey with the characters and I couldn’t recommend taking that trip highly enough.
© Carlotta Plys-Garzotto FF2 Media (12/17/2019)
Does Queen & Slim pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
No, none of the scenes in the movie consist of only women.
Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
Queen and Slim is both hard to watch and impossible to look away from. While these two characters are completely at odds on their Tinder date, and at first seem about to part ways without ever seeing each other again, they are forced into protecting each other from the onslaught of racism from the outside world. First Queen tries to protect Slim by warning the cop who pulls them over that sheknows their rights, and then Slim protects Queen when he shoots the cop as he attacks her. The rest of the film is the same; these two characters take turns protecting each other as they continue to clash despite being united in their flight from the racist police state’s agents.
When it comes to story structure, “Queen” and “Slim” are perfect opposites, driving each other to develop as characters just as inevitably as any Bonnie and Clyde or Thelma and Louise from the 60s golden age of indie Hollywood. Queen is the practical one who keeps them from being caught, but she’s also the one with no family or friends to miss. From the beginning, Queen keeps them from trusting people (particularly white people) who Slim is more willing to give a chance. This is one reason they survive the first day of their mad dash to Miami. Meanwhile, Slim is the one who cajoles Queen into going into a bar to dance; when she says “you’d really risk our lives to dance?” he without hesitation replies “hell yeah.” It’s through this foray into an everyday dive bar that Slim discovers that black people across the country are cheering them on.