Talk to Me

Kasi Lemmons

Ever since he burst onto the scene with small but memorable turns in films such as Devil in a Blue Dress, Boogie Nights and Out of Sight, actor Don Cheadle has always left a major impression on me—a charismatic chameleon, at once convincing as Sammy Davis Jr. in the HBO film of the Rat Pack as he is in Traffic and Hotel Rwanda or countless others, there seems to be little that he cannot do. Eve’s Bayou writer/director Kasi Lemmons provides the perfect showcase for her leading man with this high energy film, inspired by the life of Ralph Waldo “Petey” Green Jr., the “tell-it-like-it-is” radio DJ who, after being released from jail is reluctantly given a job at a struggling R&B station in Washington D.C. by the new program director Dewey Hughes (the versatile Chiwetel Ejiofor who is quickly becoming an actor to watch in numerous roles over the past two years). While station head, E.G. Sonderling (Martin Sheen) fears the profanity and no-holds-barred style of Green and the way it will play on WOLAM, Green scores a major audience following as in the late 1960’s, he becomes the outraged, weary and truthful voice commenting on the social injustice occurring during the Vietnam era after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing riots that followed. Catapulted to fame by his work and flair for self-promotion, along with Hughes’s wishes to branch him out into other entertainment arenas such as public appearances and television, Green succumbs to alcohol and a fast lifestyle that troubles his relationship with his faithful, fiercely loyal and flamboyant girlfriend Vernell (a terrific Taraji P. Henson) when he proves to have a difficult time accepting his newfound fame as America’s first likable, controversial “shock jock” but unlike the antics of some radio personalities today who resort to juvenile antics in order to lure the lowest common denominator, Green actually had something to say. While some of the emotional payoffs feel rushed in the abridged telling of Green’s life in order to work in as much as possible and the audience is a bit shortchanged on facts near the end, it’s nonetheless a dazzling work that feels very much like a product of the time period it’s representing and will hopefully garner some richly deserved award consideration for Cheadle as well as Lemmons who has made her finest movie since her debut Eve’s Bayou.