Review of “Guava Island”: Donald Glover’s Island Getaway is a laid-back charmer
Even when the details were finally released earlier this week about the “Guava Island,” a secret project that Donald Glover debuted at Coachella before the premiere of Amazon Prime on Saturday, there was some confusion about what exactly it was.
This is not a “visual album,” in the style of “Lemonade” Beyoncé or “Dirty Computer” by Janelle Monroe, nor is it a narrative of a long jukebox, à la “Purple Rain.” ) But if we learn something from Glover and the previous collaboration of director Hiro Murai on the “Atlanta,” FX series is that they don’t mind if their work is difficult to classify – if there is, they seem to be happy in it.
Dubbed the “tropical thriller” by the Amazon, “Guava Island” has formal ingenuity and an “Atlanta free tone,” but Glover and Murai play very different keys here. If there is, it is an extension, musical and style, from “This Is America,” a music video directed by Murai that is widely seen and widely discussed for Glover’s alter ego musical, Childish Gambino. (Remixed songs and restored here.)
But the overall approach is lighter and more attractive, suitable for tropical settings. Rihanna, Glover’s opponent, tells the opening sequence, the island’s animated history framed as folk legend and a bedtime story, with a little fairy tale: she explains how young Deni (Glover) will come to his window every night to sing for him, as if he were some kind Caribbean Rapunzel.
Now a struggling musician, Deni dreams of writing a song that will unite his people, even though they seem to have become a very close community – it is a type of place where everyone gives him a happy good morning as he rushes to the first of many jobs , singing jingles on the radio. But it’s not all fairy tales; The cruel Red Cargo (Nonso Anozie, from “Game of Thrones”) controls the island with an iron fist, and people using machine guns patrol the factory floor.
Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney’s “Guava Island” music-thin plot of distant inheritance: Deni has planned a secret all-night music festival (unlike, say, covert music films), but the audience will not work on Sundays, which is not can be accepted by Red Cargo. He offered Deni $ 10,000 to cancel the event, explaining, “I am responsible for the people on this island. I have to do the best for everyone. “There is no prize for guessing whether the event is going on, even though the consequences of the decision are heavier than usual.
Thus, this is one of the stories in which musical numbers are “realistic” (somewhat, somewhat) because the protagonist is a musician, and Murai is grateful to take the trouble to work the song into the narrative thread. However, there is not as much music as expected, given the genealogy of the stars. Apart from Deni’s radio songs, there are only a number of music numbers, most of them process existing Gambino tracks. (Rihanna, even more shocking, doesn’t sing at all.)
But there was real juice for the sequences, which included the rendering of the beautiful “Magic Summertime” on the beach and the “Saturday” concert that managed to hold the kind of excitement captured spontaneously in the best concert documentaries, such as “Wattstax” and “Pesta Blok Dave Chappelle. ” On the stage, Deni frames the program as “a celebration of life – I want everyone here to feel as free as possible tonight,” and above all, “Guava Island” is a fun entertainment tool. to make it easy. “We live in heaven,” Deni grumbled, “but none of us have the time or means to truly live here!”
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Glover has referred to “Purple Rain” and “City of God” as the main influences of the film, but also filled with the echo of the 1973 Jimmy Cliff vehicle “The Harder They Come,” another story about an island musician who came into contact with the criminal world. A beautiful, soaked photography ape that has a rugged 16-millimeter film aesthetic (cinema maker is Christian Sprenger, who also photographs “Atlanta”), and provides a lasting quality of setbacks; if it’s not set in the past, the picture will be rooted in a jammed world there, where no one has a smartphone and everyone is still listening to the radio.
The film’s main shared attribute with “Atlanta” is a bubbling, eccentric, worldview that is truly an absurdity everyday. (When Deni was kidnapped and taken to see Red Cargo, he was explicitly asked to make a business card.) The approach proved to be adapted to the thriller element, especially considering the Glover prize for reactive comedy – he could laugh with something as simple as being shifted. stare or even dumbfounded deadpan.
Rihanna, who is rather sad, does more than being a “girl”: inspires Deni with her beauty, worries about her safety, and (the oldest and most beautiful figure of speech) tries to decide when and how to tell her she is pregnant. It was a waste of spirit from this fiery and complicated player. But he and Glover have the chemistry of the stars and charisma to burn, and Murai knows to lean on a glorious moment, without preparation when he gives in to his pleasure and love dance, so short, beside him. Letitia Wright, very agile and involved in “Black Panther,” was also not much to do, but the friendly and friendly Anozie took advantage of his minimal screen time.
“Guava Island” was made in Cuba, and far-sighted shooting with warlike and sandy crews could produce Adam Sandler’s style throws, only an excuse for a paid vacation in a sunny place. But in this light, playing games, relaxed fun is a feature, not a bug. The manuscript was written by Glover’s brother Stephen, also from “Atlanta,” but the story is credited to other “Atlanta” men and three writers. And it tracks; it feels like a movie that a group of friends think about late at night, maybe while sharing bluntly, when the party wears off. This is meant as a compliment.