by Vince Rogers
Title: Talk To Me
Starring: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji Henson, Cedric
The Entertainer, Mike Epps
Directed By: Kasi Lemmons
Produced By: Miles Dale, William Horberg, Bruce Toll
Genre: Drama and Biopic
Release Date: July 13th, 2007 MPAA
Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexual content
Distributors: Focus Features
The great 20th century philosopher Sly Stone once said that Everybody
is a Star. Some stars always rise to the occasion, some stars
often fall from grace, some stars slowly burn out and some stars
join to form shining constellations. During the course of their
two decades long friendship, TV and radio personality Petey Greene
and his manager Dewey Hughes would do all of the above.
Talk to Me, helmed by Kasi Lemmons (Eves Bayou)
chronicles the true story of the fall, rise and fall of one of Americas
first, surely the most colorful and possibly the most
highly controversial radio deejays and TV talk show hosts of all
time, Ralph Waldo Petey Greene. Long before Howard Stern
or any other Shock Jock, Petey Greene brought an uncompromising
edginess and racy political incorrectness to the airwaves
of our nations capital.
Petey Greene (Don Cheadle) dreamed very big, but the world he came
from was low on opportunity. He was a product of the tough Washington
D.C. ghetto and he could not manage to see a world beyond it. The
only way he knew how to make a living, was by using his way with
words as a street hustler. Unfortunately, this was before Hip-Hop
and his rhymes didnt pay him, nor could they keep him out
Petey wound up doing a long bid in a prison, where his gift for
gab eventually leads to an assignment as the prisons PA announcer.
He would ultimately become the resident celebrity deejay of the
penitentiary. One fateful day, he was asked to negotiate with an
inmate who was threatening to kill himself. This good deed, his
service to the jailhouse community and good behavior would ultimately
lead to his early release. Its a good thing that the warden
never found out that Petey and the other inmate cunningly staged
the suicide attempt themselves.
While Peteys star was falling, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
star was definitely rising. He was a young executive at a popular,
but also ran Black soul music radio station in the Chocolate
City. Dewey and Petey once had a chance meeting at the prison
where Deweys brother Milo (Mike Epps) was also incarcerated.
At the time, Dewey called Petey a miscreant and facetiously
challenged Petey to look him up when he got out of jail. Little
did he realize what a unique creation Petey truly was.
Petey was determined to be a Chocolate Star and illuminate
the citizens of D.C. with his unique take no prisoners style deejay
skills. Shortly after his release from prison, he and his Foxy
Lady Vernell (Taraji P. Henson) make a rowdy grand entrance
at Deweys radio station to Get his job. Although
he didnt pass the first interview, he eventually
makes it on the air in rather inspired fashion.
Petey always knew he needed a man of obvious talents like Dewey
to help him get where he wanted to go. However, it takes a little
longer for the highly polished, sophisticatedly urbane, well educated
Dewey to realize that he needed what Petey had even more. Peteys
genuine grass roots love for his people and uncompromising simple
tell it like it t-i-is integrity is what Dewey needs
to truly achieve the stardom he so greatly desires.
Dewey wanted to be a star but he didnt know how to say the
things he needed to say to get there. Petey wanted to be a star,
but he didnt know how to do the things he needed to do to
become one. Talk to Me is a constantly hilarious, often poignant
and intensely inspirational story of two very different men trying
to achieve their versions of the American Dream. It
challenges us to remember that even people who seem desperately
disparate may need each other to become the people they were meant
to be. This is a Black history lesson that many of us have forgotten
and one that others have never clearly understood.
Kasi Lemmons direction is simply outstanding. She manages to capture
the Black Pride, civil unrest, political turmoil and
class struggles of the time period with a high level of authenticity.
Petey and Dewey embody the hopes, aspirations, griefs and frustrations
of inner-city Black people in the 1960s and 1970s with
heartfelt sincerity and compelling realism. Ms. Lemmons does an
excellent job of bringing an almost flawless screenplay by Rick
Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar) to life and manages to elicit brilliant performances
from her talented cast.
In addition to turning in another customarily high quality performance
that captures all of Greenes complexity and charisma, Don
Cheadle also served as the Executive Producer of Talk to Me. The
other actors also turn in superb performances, which is to be expected
from such talents as Martin Sheen, Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji
P. Henson. However, Ms. Henson may want to be mindful of her repeated
casting as the long suffering, dedicated, Soul Sister
muse to her man with a heart of gold. Nevertheless, her performance
was heartwarming, incandescent and inspired as usual.
It is no small task to steal a film from the likes of the extremely
talented Don Cheadle, but Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things)
as Dewey does just that. He superbly captures the hopes, dreams,
angst and insecurities of many young Black people of the day, who
were trying to escape their impoverished housing project backgrounds
and move into the Talented Tenth. Ejiofor delivers a
very engaging, multilayered, intricate, portrayal of a character
that could easily have been seen by some as a villain. Instead,
he manages to take the audience on a journey into the heart and
soul of Dewey Hughes, a young man trying to define Black Power
on his own terms. We come away with an endearing understanding of
Dewey. He is a man who has also had to battle against the same system
that almost managed to prevent Petey from sharing his gifts with
the world and becoming a source of inspiration to the community
he so dearly loved. Hopefully, we will see much more of Ejiofors
magnificent talents in the future as he continues to take on the
complex characters he is becoming known for.
Talk to Me is highly recommended. I encourage everyone
to support this film. Hopefully, it is destined to one day become
one of the classic films of Black cinema.