Beyond the Lights Screen 15 articles

Beyond the Lights


Beyond the Lights Poster
  • Both Parker and Mbatha-Raw handle the more chintzy passages of the script's dialogue well, and end up bringing out natural appeal through their own distinct deliveries and physicality... [But] by rooting Noni's self-image issues in a controlling mother, the script essentially provides the film with a thematic weave, a familiar, tame melodramatic structure used to simplify the thorny, important matters of identity and expression that make Beyond the Lights unique, if only ultimately in spots.

  • Like Birdman, Beyond the Lights deals with a celebrity who finds herself literally and figuratively perched on a ledge, trying to separate sincere artistic ambition from commercial calculation. And while Beyond the Lights is by far the more satisfying of the two pictures, I can’t find beacons of hope in films which, in their obsession with the mental health of the rich and famous, tacitly reinforce the Us Magazine/TMZ obsession with celebrity, scandal, and rebranding.

  • Given that her film deliberately echoes The Bodyguard, and by extension Whitney Houston (even though aspects of Noni are meant to recall Rihanna), Prince-Bythewood seems interested in playing with tantalizing bits of the familiar. When we recognize these tropes, perhaps it turns the cognitive activity Bordwell discusses into a kind of call-and-response. All the same, there is an overinvestment in the plot's chiché trajectory and character stereotyping that is troublesome...

  • [Prince-Bythewood] heavily concentrates on how good Parker and Mbatha-Raw are together. They’re not the strongest actors. They do have a strongish presence, though, especially Parker... These two manage to get away together for about 15 minutes of screen time, and their chemistry transforms the rest of the movie. They start out in The Bodyguard and wind up in Roman Holiday.

  • How easy it would be for Beyond The Lights to turn fully bathetic, and how wonderful that it mostly maintains the promise of that opening section. Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) does a beautiful job sketching in both Noni and Kaz’s antithetical milieus... A star-crossed love story is only as good as its Romeo and Juliet. Both Parker and Mbatha-Raw have a sweet, smoldering chemistry that’s a joy to witness, especially after they run off together for a rejuvenating sojourn in Mexico.

  • Maybe it took a female director and a female DP (Tami Reiker) to give us as much male as female eye candy. In a tiny club, Noni sings a grown-up version of Blackbird, and there’s not a dry eye in the house (on-screen, and probably offscreen too). Prince-Bythewood believes in couples who give each other a hand up, but more than that, in women who find and save themselves.

  • Moves between the needs of backstage romance and well-earned moments of raw emotion with same ease its characters need to negotiate. The written can signposts its movements and oppositions, but Prince-Bythewood images inject I with empathy that more than carry them.

  • +

    Sight & Sound: Ashley Clark
    June 05, 2015 | July 2015 Issue (p. 95)

    I was irked by the film's casual misrepresentation of South London district Brixton as a lock-up-your-daughters danger zone, instead of the hyper-gentrified mecca for estate agents and artisanal bakers it's really become... Yet these are relatively small quibbles. It's a crying shame – and indicative of a wider reluctance on the part of studios to support films focused on black romance – to see a work so accessible and well crafted being shunted straight to DVD in the UK.

  • Prince-Bythewood is unafraid of both the quiet moment and those of melodramatic grandiosity. The trailers for her films do them quite a disservice, for they contain scenes that, out of context, appear hokey, but in context bear an effectiveness that stings and stuns... It strikes a risky, though successful balancing act between being immensely entertaining as a musical feature and making dramatic, important statements about depression, self-worth and female empowerment.

  • [Prince-Bythewood] somehow does it all without ever letting the story get out of control, too ridiculous or fantastical. That may be Beyond the Lights’ greatest accomplishment, and why, for a film so seemingly frivolous, it hits so hard: As we watch this dreamy, colorful piece of musical and romantic wish-fulfillment, we get the distinct sense we’re watching real life unfold.

  • Lights is a superior romance that manages to honor the conventions of classic melodrama while still feeling contemporary and unforced. The leads, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker, develop a natural chemistry that's hard to resist. Likewise, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood makes the obstacles to their romance seem plausible rather than arbitrary (which is how they come off in so many inferior movie romances).

  • Prince-Bythewood has done that thing which seems increasingly rare in commercial American cinema, which is to have made a completely accessible movie without pandering, without underestimating its audience, without denying itself the specificity so crucial to good art and (usually) good entertainment.

  • A rebuke of fabricated imagery, false idols, and our current pop culture idiocracy, Beyond the Lights furthers Prince-Bythewood’s fascination with a quietly radical style of melodrama indebted to the prickly negotiation of emotion over time. Like the great Nina Simone song “Blackbird” so pivotal to Beyond the Lights, her films see both pain and hope in tangible expressions of feeling.

  • The two leads had better chemistry than any screen couple I could remember seeing for the past year, while writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s refusal to succumb to cliché, even in this wildly larger-than-life star-is-born story, lent an unexpected rawness to the romance.

  • The devil (or the diva) is in the details, as Prince-Bythewood perceptively probes modern-day definitions and demands of class, race and celebrity within the grand, velvety framework of Hollywood melodrama. Like the star at its centre, it does not suit being ignored.

More Links