Fruitvale Station is a 2013 biographical film written and directed by Ryan Coogler in his feature debut.
The film revolves around Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who decides to spend New Year's Eve 2008 getting a head start on his New Year's resolutions, including improving his relationships with his mother (Octavia Spencer), girlfriend (Melonie Diaz), and daughter (Ariana Neal). As he crosses paths with friends and strangers over the course of the day, everything comes to a head with a fateful encounter with the police at the Fruitvale BART station.
Based on a True Story, the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (under the name of simply Fruitvale) before moving on to the Cannes Film Festival, playing to great reviews in both venues, with much of the praise given to Michael B. Jordan's performance in the lead role. It was given a limited release in theatres on July 12, 2013.
The trailer can be seen here.
While it is based in real events, discussing the tropes found within this work will significantly spoil the entire film. If you have not done so already, watch the movie first, then come back. You Have Been Warned.
Tropes applying to Fruitvale Station include:
- Armor-Piercing Question: The last line of the film, as Sophina and Tatiana shower together. It is a simple question but, given the events that have taken place, it can only be met with a hard answer — one that Sophina is notably unwilling to give.Tatiana: Where's Daddy?
- Artistic License: While the film stays generally faithful to Oscar's real-life story, Coogler has admitted to necessary use of this for building his character, mostly (and most controversially) the dog scene, which was meant to showcase the usually hidden emotional depths of Oscar, and possibly do a bit of foreshadowing.
- "Back to Camera" Pose: The poster has Oscar and Ariana holding hands with their back to the viewer as they look out at the titular train station.
- Bittersweet Ending: Leaning very much towards the bitter side. Oscar is shot and subsequently dies during surgery, his killer claiming he mistook his gun for a taser is enough for him to avoid proper legal justice, but the social movement that sparks as a result ensures his memory will live on forever.
- Blood from the Mouth:
- A pitbull Oscar briefly befriends at a gas station is hit by a car, and it's left bleeding from the mouth and dies shortly after.
- Blood starts coming out of Oscar's mouth shortly after he's shot, and internal bleeding is what eventually kills him.
- Crime of Self-Defense: Oscar is placed under arrest (and shot) after the fight he had with his ex-prison enemy on the train, despite the fact that he was the one to assault Oscar. His friends also spent several hours at the police station despite not breaking any laws at all.
- Disaster Dominoes: A supermarket customer Oscar helped recognizing him on the train leads to a former inmate also recognizing him, which leads to the brawl that later gets him shot.
- Dramatic Irony: The film's ending is shown in the beginning, thus formatting it as a Foregone Conclusion, and adding a layer of meaning to the film's content as we're fully aware that we are watching a man's last day on Earth.
- In-Universe: the only person in Oscar's immediate circle that is unaware of his death come the end of the film is his daughter Tatiana. The film ends with Tatiana asking Sophina where he is, to which Sophina cannot answer.
- Everyone Has Standards: Moments before Oscar is shot, he is chastised by a supervisor who initially has nothing nice to say to him. After the trigger is pulled, he is genuinely horrified, disgusted at the cop who shot him, and tries to help him.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The entire movie (aside from a brief flashback to when Oscar was in prison) takes place over one day.
- Foregone Conclusion: As it's based off the infamous real-life shooting (shown at the beginning via camera phone footage), you know Oscar's going to die at the end.
- Oscar's death is similar in many ways to the dog that died earlier in the day. They both were killed by people who were callous and careless, both had done nothing wrong, hadn't seen the attack coming, both even bled from the mouth. They were also comforted by strangers on the scene, the dog by Oscar and Oscar by the police supervisor.
- Tatiana worries about guns and her father's safety, and he reassures her that everything will be fine. He's wrong.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Both the real-life and recreated moments of Oscar being shot are not shown — the former cuts to black just before the gunshot, and the latter chooses to focus on Oscar's face.
- HeelFace Door-Slam: After being released from prison, Oscar tries to get his life together, only to be killed afterwards.
- The Hero Dies: Oscar dies at the end of the movie.
- Heroic BSoD: Sophina is already incredibly tense as Oscar and his friends are being restrained, but as the situation escalates she grows more and more worried until she finds out what happened, at which point she's in full-blown hysterical panic. Later on when she's at the hospital with Oscar's closest family and friends, her face is defined by a broken stoicism; when Oscar's mom recommends embracing positivity, she even doubtfully shakes her head. When Oscar is pronounced dead, she quietly breaks down, and by the end of the film is obviously still in a deep trauma.
- How We Got Here: The film opens with real-life cellphone footage of Oscar being restrained by police moments before he is shot. The rest of the film covers the whole of the day before, and includes this moment — as recreated by the characters — as well as shortly after.
- I Have a Family: After Oscar is shot, he repeatedly tells the cops that he has a very young daughter.
- It's All My Fault: When she gets the chance to see her son's body, Oscar's mom breaks down and begins to blame herself, saying that if she had not convinced him to take the train, and allowed him to fulfill his original want of driving to the New Year's celebration, the whole incident would've been avoided.
- Karma Houdini: The ex-con who inadvertently gets Oscar shot, and his friends arrested, isn't even pulled off the train by the police even though HE is the one who assaulted Oscar.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The cop's reaction after shooting Oscar.
- Also, the supervisor goes from trading threats and racial epithets with Oscar to trying to comfort him until help arrives.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Near the start of the film, we get a showcase to Oscar's heart and character through his helping of a customer at the store who's frying her first fish. Later on, it's this same customer's public recognition of him that leads to another more hostile recognition from a nemesis of his that leads to a fight that leads to the police arriving which leads to him being shot. If Oscar had never made that initial gesture, the situation leading to his death would've never happened.
- N-Word Privileges: The white supervisor that Oscar trades threats with is at one point called a "bitch-ass nigga" by Oscar, at which point he fires the insult back at him. When Oscar warns him not to say that, he simply repeats it louder.
- Pop-Up Texting: Oscar's texts and various other cellphone functions (like searching his address book) are displayed in pop-ups.
- Shower of Angst: Downplayed. The film ends with Sophina and Tatiana in the shower together. Sophina knows that Oscar has died, but Tatiana doesn't, making their short interaction incredibly emotional.
- Silence Is Golden:
- In the moment that Oscar is shot, there's a brief moment of shock for both him and the audience punctuated by a sudden lack of sound.
- After Oscar is shot, there's a brief insert from earlier in the day — Oscar carrying Tatiana on his back — shown with almost no audio.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
- Oscar intended to drive to the New Year's celebration, but his mother suggested over washing dishes that he and his friends should take the train, just as a safety measure in case they're drunk on the trip back. Once this results in Oscar's death, she fully realizes this.
- When the woman who Oscar helped in the store spots him on the train, she cheerfully calls out to him...and draws the attention of Oscar's nemesis, who initiates a fight with him, which sets the tragic events of the evening in motion.