All Things Fall Apart
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All Things Fall Apart

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There is something very special holding a unique place with film audiences especially among men. It possesses many similarities to another perennial favorite, the war movie. Both derive dramatic tension through conflict that is frequently violent. Of course, sports afford a more socially acceptable venue and the scope is smaller than that typical in armed conflict. With sports the general metaphoric associations could be expanded to encompass a personal, more intimate consideration of life. A favorite plot device in this type of sports movie is the tragic loss. This can utilize the impending loss of a budding career or in more intense implementations the looming end of a young, vital life. This goes further in emotionally identification with audience then the traditional victory of the underdog motif. The problem with that faces a filmmaker trying to create a new movie in this specific sub genre is some of the very best and most memorable sports films have already taken these themes on in a fashion that would be incredibly difficult to match let alone surpass. Classic movies such as ‘Brian’s song’ and ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ have gone way past top notch sports films to iconic parts of our cultural heritage. The film under review ‘All Things Fall Apart’ makes what comes off as an honest attempt but circumstances seem to have conspired against it reaching anywhere close to the hopes the filmmaker had for his piece. This lack of something to set itself apart from the pack went a long way to reinforcing the short comings inherent in the fundamental construction of the story. There is a propensity for this type of story to become melodramatic bordering on the sappy but not much was done to alleviate this condition that is unfortunately intrinsic to the tragic loss scenario. There is some effort to counterbalance this with a strong setting and the usual ‘based on a true story’ line in the promotional material. As is usual for films making such a statement the actual events diverge significantly from the truth citing dramatic license as their justification. ‘All Things Fall Apart’ will not make any laudable lists but diehard fans of the genre may get some play out of it as a popcorn flick.

Like so many young men Deon (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) dreams of making a better life for himself. He realizes that in order to do this his has to overcome numerous obstacles including his race and neighborhood. Deon shares a dream that numerous young men, especially African-Americans have; utilizing their prowess in as sport to propel them to have Holy Grail of success. Early on Deon establishes his avenue towards this laudable goal as football, he is a natural player. His strengths in the game are so well defined yet sill developing so than no one near him doubts that great things are just around the corner for Deon. After the initial step in his well considered plan is accomplished and his skills have become known and appreciated in the high school football community Deon receives a full ride to college. It seems certain that he will a top pick in the next NFL draft launching him literally into the big time a glowing life. Then, his world implodes as he is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. although some medical details are provided they serve more as a traditional Macguffin in this sort of film; vital to the characters within the context of the story but largely inconsequential to the audience’ s understanding of it. As the cancer spread Deon is made to face the growing implication that his disease will deleteriously affect his family. His younger brother (Cedric Sanders) grew up in the shadow of Deon’s success and subsequent adoration resulting in deep seated jealousy. For his mother Bee (Lynn Whitfield) his football abilities were the source of immense pride and largely the foundation of her own life. For his mother’s boyfriend, Eric (Mario Van Peebles) the young man was viewed as a personal golden ticket leading the comfortable good life he always wanted but without much effort on his part. The one person who is concerned over Deon’s health is his physician, Dr. Brintall (Ray Liotta). Deon’s family is less concerned about the mortality of his disease than they are in the prospect that Deon will not be able to play professional football dashing their personally aggrandizing dreams of the future. The bottom line is this one of the most myopic, self serving group of people ever depicted this side of a Lifetime movie. The film was one of the first scripts written by ‘50 Cent’ and it shows. The character development is flimsy especial when stacked up against the films that have set the standards for this genre. Little opportunity is provided to mitigate the selfish motivations of the family. A greater degree of sympathy should have been displayed by them even if they were losing their meal ticket. They come off as caricatures instead of believable people. In the past I have always been impressed with the directorial talent of Van Peebles, a skill inherited from his father but developed along his own unique lines. He was having a dry spell here, a stylistic slum. The pacing is uneven and static not properly binding the segments of the story together. 50 Cent has been slowly building his acting career for years now steadily moving away from the gangster persona initiated in his music career. During this time there is evident of him strengthening his repertoire expanding his range. He is not quite there yet for a role like this that demands such a broad spectrum of emotional content. His own screenplay forces his performance over the line to the melodramatic but the odd thing is even with that said his character’s affect is unnaturally flat.

Posted 02/12/12

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