Fruitvale Station (2013), written by Ryan Coogler, was a popular film when it was released a decade ago. How was the screenplay? Let’s jump right into the analysis.
- Draft Read: Undated
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 138
- Reading Speed: Fast
- Setting(s): Oakland, San Francisco, Prison
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning one day
- Genre(s): Biopic, Love
- Theme(s): Love, Marriage, Fatherhood, Classism, Justice
- Protagonist Change: Moderate
Where to start? Let’s begin with the downsides. Apparently this was Coogler’s first feature, and it reads like one. The formatting is inconsistent, there are (many) spelling errors. If The King’s Speech (2010) was the Mona Lisa my initial impression was that this script was a painting created by a college art student. But maybe that’s not the best way to view this film. Maybe it’s more like a Banksy painting, or one in the theme of realism whereas most screenplays are abstract. Maybe.
In reality, this script has something few others have: authenticity. We see the final day in the life of Oscar Grant, a young black man who tragically loses his life. Grant has no special powers, no epic speech, and doesn’t perform any crazy stunts to save the girl; he’s a normal young dad who is trying to figure out his place in the world. And he takes many positive steps, such as helping a woman buy the right type of fish for her meal and ditching marijuana he planned to sell.
Grant isn’t a saint. He’s on parole and is a bit rough around the edges. But who isn’t? Perhaps that’s what makes this screenplay so authentic. And since we can empathize with him, the ending is just that much more powerful.
How often can we connect with someone in a day in the life movie (a movie that takes place over 24 hours). Coogler, with down-to-earth language and through simple interactions with others, shows us the true Oscar Grant. That’s pretty impressive.
I’ve already talked about Oscar, the protagonist. There are other characters, such as his mother, girlfriend, and daughter, the latter perhaps being the most thought-out and powerful.
The weakest characters are the villains, the two police officers and Daniel Cale, who has beef with Oscar. They are overly violent, vicious, and aggressive, but it’s hard to really understand their motives besides a penchant for violence. While we feel the intensity of the climax, most of us already know the final result: Oscar is killed. But where’s the fear from the officers? The chaos of the scene? It just isn’t there in the writing.
Dialogue & Pacing
Standard and straightforward dialogue.
As noted, the movie follows Oscar’s final day. It moves pretty quickly and there aren’t any slow scenes.
How can a movie be impactful if we already know the ending? Well, how about showing us the person Oscar is? And Coogler does this masterfully. Oscar is a likable outgoing person because of all the great things he does for others, his family, etc. leading up to the shooting.
Best Part of The Script
Even though I thought the climax could have been improved, it certainly was the most powerful part of the script, as were the following scenes in the hospital. You can start reading on page 92 (75% of the way through the script).