This Week's Cinestudio preview: Straight Outta Compton

Andre Young is lying on the floor of his bedroom. The year is 1986, and the young man is listening to a plucky R&B tune on his headphones. Sunlight streams through the window of the messy room. To the viewer, this scene implies safety, calmness, and happiness. But outside this bubble of music lies Compton—a wasteland of crime and violence where any glimmer of hope is immediately hushed by the sound of distant gunshots, sometimes not so distant.
This is the world of our next big Cinestudio movie, “Straight Outta Compton.” The movie, which premiered to general audiences last summer, is a cross-section of a time when the rap music scene was just beginning to see its own potential. Speaking artistically, LA seems to have been going through a Rap Renaissance in the late 80’s. At its heart was a circle of artists that would grow to huge proportions over the decades to come.
But rap as we know it had a rough road to travel—it was born from crime ridden neighborhoods and reflects the turmoil of its home. “Straight Outta Compton” takes us down this road in the company of a pivotal act from the era, N****z with Attitude (NWA). From their quick and very luck driven rise to their heartbreaking, violent fall, NWA began with that young man in the headphones, Andre Young, more commonly known by his rap name, Dr Dre. He and his friends have been marginally interested in making music for some time, but only when Dre actually assembles them do Ice Cube, Eazy E, MC Ren and DJ Yella (these last two hardly have any lines) finally break out of obscurity. Leaving Compton behind, the newly popular group goes on tour, racking up cash and stirring controversy. Rap had never been so open and honest about the horrors of the ghetto—their first albums were violent and crass, but only in an effort to capture the grime and grit of Compton.
Here waits the pivotal aspect of the movie—these men are young and impressionable, as much as they’d like to say otherwise. They are all on the threshold of a new world of art and enterprise, but behind them lies only Compton, crime and the violence they write their lyrics about. The effort to fully escape the broken home they all share tears them apart, and leaves us wondering if things could have been different. After all, many classify NWA as “Gangsta Rap”—the criminal element is essential to the music.
“Straight Outta Compton” gives a moving and engaging portrait of an undeniably important musical group. The five main characters succeed at being confrontational and fiery, but are also relatable and emotional beings, which is more than some directors would allow.
The movie works because it tries its hardest not to flinch or shy away from subjects that make NWA seem a little less than admirable. But while it boasts strong character work, “Compton” has a few rough edges and a few loose ends. Narrative problems abound but are easily forgiven because of spot-on acting from all five of the group’s musicians.
Whatever you may think of the album for which the movie was made, “Straight Outta Compton” was conceived with heart and genuine understanding for this specific place and time.
“Straight Outta Compton” plays at Cinestudio from Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.

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