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Talk to Me: Another Good Don Cheadle Performance

As a way of depicting an important slice of history, Talk to Me is successful. As a vehicle for Don Cheadle to amaze us once again with his utter transformation, it's excellent. As a work of storytelling, however, the movie falls short. Director Kasi Lemmons is fantastic at setting up artful shots and creating scenes full of tension. But these great pieces put together somehow don't add up to a satisfying, complete work.

Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene was a prisoner in the 1960s, acting as radio DJ for his fellow cell mates. When he was released from jail he went straight to D.C. radio station WOL-AM to claim what he thought was his rightful job as a radio host. Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the only black man holding a high position at the R&B station, initially resisted hiring Petey — he was an ex-con after all — which led Petey to stage demonstrations in front of the radio station, accusing Hughes of not supporting a fellow black man. After much hemming and hawing on the part of the station manager (Martin Sheen), Petey was brought on board and he became the voice of the people. In turn, the radio station became the peoples' radio station. That's just the beginning, though, so

From that point on in the movie, there are many scenes about Petey being "real" vs. Hughes being "white," plenty of arguments between Petey and his girlfriend Vernell (the electrifying Taraji P. Henson), and Petey getting drunk and doing silly things. Everything comes to a standstill, however, at the murder of Martin Luther King. For a brief time, Petey Greene became a sort of coarse beacon of peace and hope while the streets of DC were filled with riots and fires. This is one of the most intriguing moments of the film, not least because of Don Cheadle's apparent internalization of this experience.

The rest of the movie is a jumble of your normal rise-to-fame-fall-from-grace stuff, with a lot of crises arising between Hughes and Petey. Cheadle is flawless in this movie, though Ejiofor (who I love infinitely more now) puts forth an astounding performance as the upright, responsible working man making it in a white man's environment while trying not to deny his childhood spent in the projects. Not to mention he's absolutely gorgeous. Looking dapper in his suits, he employs a heavy-lidded sexiness and gentlemanly strength. Though, admittedly, at times it seems that Ejiofor's stage training comes through — his pronunciation so precise, his vocal technique so polished.

Director Lemmons does her very best to deliver a tense, high-stakes atmosphere, all set to the soulful tunes of the 1960s and 1970s. Where the movie fails most is in the script. Sometimes the dialogue is spot-on, at other times it's laughably trite. For every heavy-handed moment, though, there's Don Cheadle undercutting the cliches with his impeccable comedic timing. If there's no Oscar nomination in Cheadle's future on account of this movie, I will be shocked.

Join The Conversation
Erika773 Erika773 9 years
I just saw the trailer for the Traitor and Don Cheadle stars alongside Guy Pearce, and the movie looks amazing. Don's such a versatile actor and im really proud of him. From the looks of the trailer it looks like its got a some pretty awesome action sequences as well. I went to the website site is opens august 27...less than 2 weeks till Don hits the big screen again. For those of you who havent seen it yet:
SouthernMom SouthernMom 10 years
I am a huge Cheadle fan. I still remember him in a Devil in a Blue Dress with Denzel.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 10 years
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a phenomenal actor. His performance in the role of Simon/Lola in "Kinky Boots" is absolutely stunning. Despite the sexy title, the film was inspired by the true story of a family owned Northhampronshire men's footwear factory in England which turned to production of kinky boots for transvestites in order to save the business and preserve the jobs of the locals who worked there. We just couldn't believe how good he was!
lorenashley lorenashley 10 years
awesome guy.
Neekoh Neekoh 10 years
I heard about this! It seems good. It's on my list to see.
RCLdesigngirl RCLdesigngirl 10 years
As if my Don Cheadle/Tim Meadows confusion wasn't already really bad! I can't look at these previews without having a very huge moment of "Ladies' Man? Hotel Rwanda? I don't know!!!"
pinkflats pinkflats 10 years
don and chiwetel in a movie together. one word. brilliant. and kudos for the female director.
Tech Tech 10 years
I saw him on Charlie Rose the other night. He's a fantastic interview.
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 10 years
It's great to see a major motion picture directed by an African American woman. Bravo, Kasi!
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 10 years
Chiwetel is such an underrated actor. I love this man's work and Don cheadle what can I say after hotel Rwanda I was just awed and then crash came along and i was totally blown away.
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