There is a phenomenon going on of movies about blacks being pushed out of the bay area. The Last Black Man in San Francisco follows up on Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting. Those two movies are 5 diamonds for me, perhaps they were so good that I artificially devalued Last Black Man...
I have struggled with understanding my feelings towards this movie. I have spent a week contemplating what to say and how to say it. It elicited an emotional response, but I had trouble identifying what emotion it was. Jimmie Fails, the story writer, and star, and his father were foreclosed on in the 1990s from a beautiful home in San Francisco. A white couple now lives in the home and its value has skyrocketed to $4,000,000. I feel some white guilt while watching this movie. There are historically black neighborhoods in St Louis that are being gentrified like most cities. Ultimately I concluded that my neighborhood has been and remains diverse and affordable. It took some time for me to remove myself from the white couple's shoes. The movie was uncomfortable to watch at times because of the white guilt and the parallels I was trying to draw, but that made it impactful.
I am a sucker for over-saturated colors and long panning shots of vibrant scenes. Just go look at my 5 diamond reviews and I guarantee I mentioned the 'cinematography' in the majority of them. The opening few scenes of this film are a feast for the eyes. The tracking shots of Jimmie and Montgomery skateboarding are excellent. The interior shots of Jimmie's family house being wide and expansive contrasted with Montgomery's home being incredibly cramped are a perfect balance. All of this works to a point, but then it feels over-done after the Nth time. The movie is more than two hours long, and by the third act, some of the long gorgeous shots just feel a bit tiresome as I wanted the plot to advance more quickly.
The acting throughout the film is pleasing, building to a climactic peak during the play. Jimmie and Montgomery are phenomenal. I thought I had figured them out early in the movie but I was very wrong. I had to spend time after the movie to re-evaluate scenes throughout it. Montgomery was much more complex than I had originally thought. The amount of time, effort, and edits that this review took are a testament to how great a film it is. I hope that more and more black writers and directors are given opportunities to tell their stories with appropriate budgets and studio support. In a world of remakes and sequels, these original stories are standouts that we need more of.
I have to note that this is an A24 production. They are quickly becoming my favorite indy company with releases like Eighth Grade, The Florida Project, and Lady Bird.