The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
DIRECTOR: George Tillman jr.
CAST: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Allison Miller, Zach Gilford.
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
IF Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire proved anything, it was that audiences were saps for poverty-stricken tales.
Of course, the reception of such universal stories hinges on their treatment and, of course, the cast.
That said, audiences will undoubtedly gravitate to The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete thanks to the ingeniously marketed promos of Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, Winnie Mandela) and Jordin Sparks (Sparkle). But, while they are the eye-candy drawcards, the superlative performances of Skylan Brooks (Mister) and Ethan Dizon (Pete) bowl viewers over.
The slice-of-ghetto-life story evokes intense feelings of despair and sadness as Mister and Pete are thrust into a series of unfortunate circumstances.
Set in the Brooklyn projects, Mister and Pete are surrounded by the moral decay of their community, trapped in an almost inescapable web of unemployment, drugs, violence and prostitution.
Pete is entrusted to the care of Gloria (Hudson), Mister’s drug-addict mother, as his prostitute mother is busy working the streets.
Meanwhile, Mister, who has been performing poorly at school, harbours one goal – to become a Hollywood actor of the ilk of Will Smith. But everything hinges on his getting to a very important audition, first.
Gloria’s arrest throws Mister’s plan out of kilter and he is forced to take care of Pete – doing so grudgingly at first. At 13, that is a huge responsibility to shoulder.
But Mister, wearing his fearless and defiant spirit on his sleeve, so to speak, soldiers on amid dodging a gang of thugs robbing flats in the projects, playing hide-and-seek with an enraged shopkeeper as well as the police looking to put them into the system.
For the few scenes that Hudson is in, she is remarkably good and proves her versatility as an actress. She fits into the ethos of a drug addict convincingly, from her slutty wardrobe to her conflicted emotions as a mother.
As for Sparks, her character represents hope. However, her relationship with Mister and Pete is poorly executed and her presence is reduced to window dressing.
Brooks and Dizon complement each other magnificently. While Brooks adopts more of a take-charge attitude, Dizon is passive in his mannerisms.
It is their blossoming brotherly friendship that tugs at the heart as the writer also delves into issues of child abuse.
It is a pity that the director got so preoccupied with capturing Mister’s and Pete’s struggle that his climax turned into a shotgun affair and undid most of the emotional and inspirational build-up.
Directing pitfalls notwithstanding, these young stars deliver such earnest performances that the audience will find it hard not to be moved by their tale. Gritty and laden with poignant scenes, this movie tugs at the humanity we sometimes shut off.
If you liked Slumdog Millionaire, Half Nelson, Brooklyn Lobster and Our Song you might enjoy this.