KO Review Queen and Slim
Queen and Slim
The film opens in a diner, on a tinder date between a very educated and composed woman of colour, Queen, played by Jodie Turner-Smith. Queen wears a matching knit white turtleneck and pants. Her race and clothing is symbolic to the film which is why it needs to be illuminated right from the beginning of the review. Queen is playing by the rules of the society she has had to assimilate to be successful in her career. She sits at a booth with a young black man. His body language is a little hunched forward and certainly he is not as sophisticated as her. That much is clear. He orders scrambled eggs and toast with sides, she orders a salad. When the waitress brings their food, she delivers him two fried eggs- this is important because it illustrates the disposition of our two characters: Queen says, “didn’t you order your eggs scrambled?” Slim replies that he did but also that he knows the waitress. She is a single mom and has more important things to worry about. Queen says she has a problem with people not doing their job properly.
We already as an audience start empathizing with with him because we see how kind he is and this foreshadows the issues about to arise in the next scene. We then go on to find out that Queen is a defense attorney and she lost a case where her client will receive the death penalty. Slim doesn’t know the death penalty even still exists in Ohio and Queen quickly schools him on how 29 states still allow the death penalty. Slim looks shocked.
When the couple leave the diner and Slim starts driving, Queen realizes that Slim made a playlist for their date. It is endearing to her and embarrassing to him as he grabs his phone back and swerves the car. Queen makes it clear to him they will not be having sex and he is just to drive her home. The sirens start behind the car and all of a sudden they are being pulled over by the police.
The white officer approaches slim on the driver side and asks for his license and registration- Queen starts being aggressive towards the officer and making disparaging comments. Slim encourages her to chill and he will handle it.
Before long the officer asks Slim to step out of the car and open the trunk. The trunk is filled with shoe boxes, nothing that would incriminate him in any way. Queen yells out to the officer that he needs a warrant to search the car and things escalate from there to the point where Queen gets out of the car and is shot by the officer in the leg. Slim is wrestled to the ground where he manages to get the officers pistol and shoot him very graphically right through the face.
It is at that time where the Queen stands up and takes control of the situation by telling Slim they need to go forward.
Then comes the most iconic scene in the film to me- the gas station pumps with the truck. I don’t know if this was inspired by drake’s hotline bling video with the James Turrell lit squares but it certainly looked reminiscent to me of the artists work Sky Space “Twilight Epiphany” at Rice University in Houston, Texas. This film is so beautifully shot- every frame of this film is composed like an artistic composition. This may have been the most memorable to me, but there are many others that are beyond brilliant.
Queen and Slim employs motifs from cult films like Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers where a Romeo & Juliet style romantic crime spree is sensationalized by the media. This take on the story is fresh and appealing with a new perspective in cultural identity.
Fashion plays a defining role in this film. We see Queen transition from a very formal and self-aware woman to very comfortably natural as the film progresses. Queen, in the beginning of the film is very assimilated into the rules of mainstream American society and there is a distinct transition when they are on the run from the law. They break free of the assimilation and maintain a distinct pop-cultural identity one swaying to the like of hip-hop music videos. When Queen takes out her braids and wears her natural hair then dresses herself in the tiger print mini bodycon dress with snake print go-go boots we see an empowered sexual transition. Queen embodies female archetype characters from past films like Foxy Brown in a 70’s blaxploitation film. The entire ensemble fetishizes Queen, especially when contrasted by Slim wearing Queen’s pimp uncle’s red velor tracksuit with white sneakers. The fashion may actually say more that the dialogue in the film itself.
I have issues with this image because although this is a love story, it seemed when their wardrobe changes took place, so did their moral compasses. Slim who said he never drinks goes from shooting bourbon to smoking weed and this is when things take a turn for the worse. In many ways the two characters started from a place of black empowerment in the beginning of them film which quickly took a negative turn to perpetuating white stereotypes of black culture, especially when it comes to glorifying criminal behavior.
Another very obvious piece of Queen’s wardrobe was the caucasian coloured bandage around her gunshot wound on her leg. This was the most straight-forward way of telling the audience that America is still a white world and these two are just living in it. The fact that we are so close to 2020, a time we all thought we would be living like the Jetsons and we still only have white skin coloured bandages as the norm!?!? This seems completely messed up right? (BTW there is a company that makes a diverse range of skin coloured band aids you can order from amazonhttps://www.amazon.com/Tru-Colour-Skin-Tone-Bandages-Brown-Black/dp/B00Q60FQI4 but the point is they are not readily available in every drugstore). Realistically, cosmetic foundations for women of colour other than caucasian have just begun to be more available in the past 15 years, but this bandage in the film drives that point home more directly than any other.
In one of the picturesque driving scenes, Slim comments- it’s so beautiful out here. Queen then retaliates with “is it though?” and we see people working in a field overseen by a man on a horse with a shotgun. It was another illustration as to the band aid point- how far have we really come?
My second favourite scene in the film was when Queen made Slim pull the car over so she could get out and pet the white horse standing against the fence. Queen turns to Slim and says “my uncle always said there is nothing scarier to a white man than a black man on a horse” when Slim asks why, she tells him because you have to look up at him. Queen then encourages Slim to get on the horse and go for a ride and the whole thing was just so adorable.
In much the same way Spike Lee employed criticism on his own community, so does this film. Without exposing any spoilers, let’s just say there are a couple of noteworthy moments where your heart falls into your stomach when you see negative stereotypes portrayed by the media in characters that have not overcome those awful representations and it becomes not only heart wrenching in those scenes but incredibly disappointing to the plot.
Photo: Essence Mag
The director of Queen & Slim is Melina Matsoukas who is a two-time grammy award winner and is probably best known Beyonce’s music video Formation, which very well might be the most iconic of all of Beyonce’s videos. The filmic style is paralleled in Queen & Slim. That image of Beyonce on the top of that sinking cop car with those lyrics… brilliant. I digress…
There is a certain sense of pride and deep admiration when I see two women who are contemporaries creating a love story masterpiece of this generation. The Queen & Slim screenwriter is Lena Waithe, American actress best known for her character Denise on Master of None, the Netflix show she also co-writes. Queen & Slim is serious, comedic at times, and loaded with so many deep messages we need to unpack as a woke society. I am sure the second time I see it, those embedded symbols will become even more clear to me. The most important thing this film highlights is the need to evolve and change because these fictional film issues are a reality in the news and everyday life of many Americans. I highly recommend seeing this film and letting yourself feel all the feelings it evokes because that’s a good place to start.
Queen & Slim opens in theatres November 27, 2019, check CalgaryMovies.com for local Calgary showtimes- they also are running a contest right now to see the film before it hits theaters. Check it out HERE