“This is directed to whoever in listening range / A yo the whole state of thangs in this world bout to change” (Black Thought of The Roots “The Next Movement” Things Fall Apart album, 1999). I say that to say Lena Waithe (screenplay writer of Queen and Slim) has an uncanny ability of bringing across significant, real, Black cultural expression unmatched by nearly all who have come before her.
Enter: QUEEN AND SLIM
When I go to a movie, I do not like to research what it will be about. When I saw posters pop up in and around Los Angeles for the film Queen and Slim, my first thought was that it was about a drug dealer in the 80s and his girl. As you may have heard my vociferous harangues on “NO MORE JIM CROW: movies, plays, books, television series”; the ad poster alone is the antipode of Jim Crow, so I was all aboard and ready to go see 10:30 PM Thanksgiving night.
You have a beautiful young lawyer with anxiety issues played by Jodie Turner-Smith. You have a beautiful, caring young black male played by Daniel Kaluuya, who loves his family; particularly his father (in a world where Black men aren’t normally depicted as having a proclivity toward family, NOR HAVING FATHERS!).
Queen and Slim are out on a Tinder date because she was bored and liked his lonely lorn looking photo and “I felt sorry for you”, she tells him at dinner.
After the dinner on the ride home to drop her off is where things get FASTIDIOUS! A bond starts to form, well, for no other reason than, it has to! And from the forming of this bond on this in-fortuitous journey, is where the beauty of the film starts to unfold.
What began to unfold was, literally a modern age story of Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad in the opposite direction, South.
In the unfolding of this journey, I found myself being shot in the heart with moments of love and artistic expression.
When Queen and Slim arrive at her uncle Earl’s (Bokeem Woodbine) house in New Orleans, a weird (maybe not so weird within the Black Community) back-end family love support connection happens.
As Queen and Slim are forced to leave her Uncle’s house, just before they hop into their new set of wheels begrudgingly bequeathed to them by her uncle, two modern art paintings (if I was an artist I’d paint them) unfold. 1. The young lady dressed in a tight mini-skirt and rubber rain boots, bending down as Queen’s uncle bids his niece an “I love you” and goodbye outside the car window; the picture of the car, him at the window and the young lady in the mini-skirt bent down, was an aesthetic I found endearing. 2. As the car pulls off, the young lady in the mini skirt rises from her knelt position; she and Queen’s uncle, with their backs turned to the camera, watch it ride off into the sunshine; on cue, Roy Ayers “Sunshine” starts to play as scene music.
Queen and Slim continuing on their journey, the audience starts to learn, are becoming immortalized and heroic and supported by the Black community on their road to freedom.
On a stop at a live music bar, a second date of sorts to the first Tinder date; as Slim goes to order a drink, an older female bar tender flirts with him a little. When he goes to pay for the drinks, a beautiful, almost tear jerking, exchange of community love and support happens.
At the end of the film, the last shot of Bokeem Woodbine, we’ve all (especially men) had that expression on our face at that very moment.
Three problems I had with the film: 1. The dereliction of duty by a Black police officer in the film could have astounding real life effects on the hiring of Black police officers throughout the nation. 2. The actions of the young man from the auto repair shop could continue to fuel police shootings and killings of young Black males in America. 3. THE ENDING; though realistic and highly likely, and emotionally charged, I would have liked to see a different less protracted ending to Queen and Slim’s Journey.
Even with those three complaints; ALL STARS, ALL-GREEN TOMATOES, ALL BLACK EVERYTHING, ACCOLADES FOR THIS FILM: QUEEN AND SLIM!