'Fruitvale Station': Too Difficult to Watch?

For some, the similarities between Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin make the film a hard thing to see.

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Another friend told me she planned to purchase a ticket for Fruitvale and hand it to someone who needed to see it.  

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the tiny indie theater in which I sat was as quiet as one would expect a small indie theater to be at 2 p.m. on a hump day. A spray of people sat mostly in the back three rows, eschewing movie-theater etiquette and squeezing in close.

The beginning of the film replays actual footage from bystanders' cellphones, a million handheld CCTVs documenting Grant's murder. You can hear people in the background shouting, "No" and "Why" and "Come on," as Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan) is abused by cops while seemingly trying to keep the peace. Then there's a loud pop. And the world shifts.

I'm not ashamed to admit I "watched" that entire scene with my eyes closed. Like everyone else huddling in their seats, I knew what was coming, and I still wasn't prepared to actually see it. There aren't enough armrests in the world to brace yourself for that.

Gratefully, the bulk of the film is dedicated to Grant's life, not his death. Grant is expertly depicted as a real person -- not a martyr or an icon or an iron-on image for all your political T-shirt needs. He was a study in contrasts. At once sweet, helpful and compassionate, but in the blink of eye he could be cold, distant and violent.

He'd been to prison. He'd sold drugs. He'd cheated on his girlfriend. He also snuck his daughter an extra snack before day care, turned down the hip-hop music in his car to wish his mother a happy birthday and gave his girlfriend the hoodie off his back when she got cold. He was a person. That fact makes the final scene everyone knows is coming all the more gut-punching.

On the way out, I met two older black men dressed in oversized shirts and matching striped polos, Luther and Terry, both in their late 40s. Terry had been balling throughout the last 30 minutes of the film.

"That was heartbreaking," Terry told me, his eyes still puffy.

"I was nervous coming to see this. It's like a mirror to Trayvon. But if people see this, it will probably fuel their anger. It was so unfair. They can just do anything to us," added Luther, wide-eyed.

"I mean, damn. That was deep, man," said Terry, who then turned to one of the ticket takers and added, "That movie will piss a brother off."