Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in “Beyond the Lights” new movie from Director of Love & Basketball
When was the last time you saw a romantic drama? Well it’s been a while for me and thanks to Beyond the Lights I remember what a good romantic drama looks like.
This hybrid genre follows the story of Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) the latest musical superstar, who struggles to deal with newfound pressures of fame as her career kicks off. It is an intriguingly cute film that executes authenticity on the current state of pop culture and the music industry, as we know it. For what its worth, it speaks truth. As you watch the film, the writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood (who wrote Love & Basketball) captures ‘pearl clutching’ moments, where you’ll stop and think you’ve heard similar stories -whether in real life or through the media outlets. However, the finger is never pinpointed at one celebrity but a combination of many.
The story begins in 1998 in South London with young Noni (India Jean-Jacques) Noni’s momager (mom-manager) Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) is strong willed and borderline emotionally abusive as she steers Noni’s career from the bottom to the top. However, the mother/daughter relationship starts to suffer and she becomes regretful of her brazen approach. Similar situations that compare are Beyoncé, her father Matthew Knowles managed her throughout Destiny’s Child and for the first half of her solo success. Another would be Selena Gomez who reportedly dropped her mother and stepfather from her management team.
In addition, the portrayal of a current day record label in this film speaks volumes and the sexualisation of Noni, becomes overthrowing for her. What we have noticed in the celeb world is the “child star syndrome”, where child stars have a hard time transitioning to adulthood often getting into trouble with the law or becoming overtly sexual which becomes weird for fans to accept. Namely Miley Cyrus who has been ‘twerking’ from city to city on her “The Bangerz Tour”. And who remembers Britney’s “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” fight back in the day?
Noni’s hit single “Masterpiece” contains lyrics such as “He love the way I twerk it, he love the way I bust it, love the way I…” which is just another illustration of what is being put out there in the real world and a great big step away from her introduction to the film with the performance of “Blackbird” by Nina Simone.
There are many other elements to the film such as the boyfriend who humiliates her during a collaborative performance on the BET Awards, which gives us a touch of Rihanna and the whole Chris Brown situation. Also Gina Prince-Bythewood mentioned in an interview with Jezebel.com that she read articles on Mary J.Blige, Fantasia and Kid Cudi to see how they’ve dealt with their struggles of the music industry. Which just makes it seem that all the way more real.
Throughout all of this Noni meets Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker) who is basically her knight in shining armour. He helps her free herself of this dark space she finds herself barricaded in, to which she finds the courage to develop herself into the artist she initially set out to be.
Overall Beyond the Lights is a great film and the realism has you second-guessing you are watching real life play out before you eyes.
– Roxanne McKenzie