[DISCLAIMER: There are no spoilers in this. Some of you may feel like there are though. There aren't. But we're all allowed to have feelings. If you intend to see Beyond the Lights, just keep that in mind. Your feelings that is; not my lack of a spoiler.]
It feels like nearly once a week, there is some movie screening that I receive an invite to. When you're the man the way that Aloe Blacc is the man, these things happen. Now, I turn down quite a few of them. I love movies, but nobody pays me to sit in a movie theater every week to watch some movie that I probably won't like. And while I do tout my substantial critical analysis abilities when it comes to pop culture, the truth is, I don't care to see the vast majority of movies that come out that look to be award-worthy or suited for uber mass appeal. I like comedies, romances, and movies with coloreds. You give me a Black romantic comedy and I'm all in.
One of the positives about going to screenings is that sometimes people involved in the movies are there. I saw Think Like A Man with Steve Harvey. I saw Think Like A Man Too with Megan Good and Michael Ealy. I saw About Last Night with Regina Hall and Kevin Hart, etc. Maybe a month ago (I'm pretty sure this screening happened almost a month in advance), I saw Beyond The Lights with Nate Parker and writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood, famously known for creating one of the most highly esteemed movies in the Black movie canon, Love & Basketball.
For those who haven't seen Beyond The Lights, it's a pretty good movie. It's predictable, but like most predictable movies, how you get to the predictableness is why we see the movies. The devil is in the details so there are elements you just won't see coming. I enjoyed it. A lot actually. And when it hits Netflix, I will netflick the hell out of it. It was well written though, and had it come out in the early 2000s I feel like it would have done very well at the movies. Thus far, it's only done $6.5 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. We got to do mo' better. Also, the soundtrack is straight up on fleek. In the trailer, they tease a song by Cynthia Erivo called "Fly Before You Fall" which was the perfect backdrop for both the story and the original trailer. Folks went ham trying to find it online but there was nothing doing. It's out now. Enjoy.
Back to the lecture at hand, when the folks involved in the movie show up, they usually answer questions and talk a bit about the movies. This particular night and with this particular movie, we got gold. It seems that Gina Prince-Bythewood was being very open and candid, and folks asked the right questions. While talking about the movie preliminarily, she mentioned that the movie (starring Nate Parker, Gugu Mbatha-Raw aka #bae, and Minnie Driver) was partially inspired by a famous pop singer or at least with this person in mind. The movie is about a singer struggling with fame and identity; you know, Michael Jackson shit. Anyway, she came up with the idea for the movie and had the lead in her mind the entire time, they just couldn't make it work. Gugu ended up doing a wonderful job in it - she's a good actress after all - and she gave the movie a flair and a fresh face it needed to feel believable.
Turns out, GPB basically wrote the movie with Alicia Keys in mind to play the lead role. Now see, that's interesting news. Bu-bu-bu-bu wait…there's more.
One of the best parts about talking to the people who wrote the movies is that you get to find out, straight from the horse's mouth, what their intentions, purposes, and goals were with the movie. But more importantly, you get to find out about outtakes, snafus…and alternate endings.
Sidebar: I still haven't opened my Best Man Holiday DVD and it purports to contain an alternate ending. I've always wondered what that could be considering how…definitively…that movie ended. Alas, I also don't care enough to open up the DVD and find out for myself. Hakuna matata, motherfuckers. Hakuna matata.
One soul who came thru and asked the clutch question of the evening changed the whole game. He asked a simple question: Did you have any alternate endings?
This isn't a spoiler if you've seen the trailer. But I'm about to talk about what happens in the movie, but again, its also in the trailer. In one scene, Noni (Gugu aka #bae), clearly feeling the pangs of hating stardom attempts to throw herself off her balcony and Nate Parker catches her, tells her "I see you" and pulls her to safety. The lesson here, quit letting drug-adled starlets stay in apartments with balconies.
GPB paused for a second, then said, well, in one of the earliest drafts of the movie, HERE'S how it was going to end: When Nate Parker catches Gugu falling off the balcony he says, repeatedly, "I see you, I see you…" they lock eyes and then he pulls her up.
Well, in earlier versions of her draft screenplay, the entire movie was going to take place as a dream of what she saw looking into his eyes. Everything that happened from that moment on was what her life would look like with him and the happiness she could ultimately find. At the end, we'd find out its a dream sequence while she's still hanging there and her arm slips and she falls to her death knowing what life could have been like, but like my man Kane said at the end of Menace II Society, "…but now its too late."
She said that after letting folks read it they thought it was too morbid and felt a happier ending would be better to sell the movie so she changed it to its current ending pretty early on.
THIS is why I go to movie screenings. That changed so much of my perspective and I don't even know why. But my friends and I debated if that would have made the movie better (we all agreed that yes, it would, because we wouldn't have seen that coming, and let's be real, thats more realistic).
Either way, for those of you who have seen it, how ya like them apples?
For those who haven't, support Black movies.