By Darlene Donloe
Stardom is a fickle lover. It adores you one minute and kicks you to the curb the next. You’re the flavor of the month and then it won’t even take your calls.
The perils of stardom, the ability to trust in yourself and, of course, love, are the core of the new film, Beyond the Lights.
It’s the story of Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a music superstar who has allowed her mother (Minnie Driver) and the pressures of the business to push her to the edge. Feeling invisible, she makes a fateful decision, but is brought back from the brink by Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician (Nate Parker) who “sees” her.
One things leads to another and a tender relationship develops. But not everyone is happy for the couple. Kaz’s father, played by Danny Glover, would prefer that his son concentrate on his bid for office. Noni’s mother wants her to concentrate on being the biggest entertainer in the world.
It all makes for an intriguing story helmed by director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Secret Life of Bees, Love and Basketball).
Mbatha-Raw is believable as the fragile, rebellious superstar. She delivers some respectable concert performances.
Parker always turns in a worthy performance. This time he’s enlisted to show strength, vulnerability, passion and patience. He succeeds in producing all four.
This is one of Driver’s best performances ever. She nearly steals the film with a stunning and noteworthy performance as a driven stage mom.
Beyond the Lights is a simple story, but with an intriguing foundation. Its seedy underbelly is engaging.
Beyond the Lights, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Colson “MGK” Baker and Danny Glover. The film is produced by Stephanie Allain, Ryan Kavanaugh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Reggie Rock Bythewood. It’s executive produced by Tucker Tooley, Matt Alvarez, Robbie Brenner, Ron Burkle and Jason Colbeck.
Beyond the Lights, in theaters Nov. 14, is Rated PG-13.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Beyond the Lights gets an O (oh, yeah).