Studio: Universal Studios
US Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexual content
Film Length: 1hr 58minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
Audio: Dolby TrueHD , English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1,
Subtitles: Optional English & French
The Film - out of
Biopics, films that recount the trials and triumphs of iconic and well recognized figures from the entertainment, political, religious and philanthropic realms often walk a fine line between realism and dramatic exploit. In recent times, films like Ray and Walk The Line have found broad popularity in detailing the lives of noted individuals from the music field, but even beyond Hollywood’s recent infatuation, films like Gandhi, ‘Amadeus’ and Oliver Stone’s underappreciated Talk Radio have chronicled with great skill the lives of interesting figures from our society recent and long past and done so with great success
In this year’s Talk To Me, the outrageous, insightful, soulful and irreverent true life story of Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene, is brought to life with Don Cheadle playing the ‘truth talking’ radio personality who pioneered ‘talk radio’. Petey Greene was a controversial and popular Radio DJ to the Washington DC area for years during 1960’s and 70’s, a man who discovered his passion for connecting with a world of radio listeners while in prison. During his incarceration (as a miscreant!) he meets the brother of a fellow inmate, a man who works at a DC radio station, and with all the brash cockiness and charming presumptuousness, tries to line up a DJ job for when his prison term is over. The man whom he thrusts his expectant demands upon is Dewey Hughes, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Needless to say Dewey is less than enthralled by Petey’s efforts.
Upon his release, Petey strolls into the radio station where Dewey works to claim his job. Despite the icy cold welcome he receives (he is thrown out); Petey is not deterred and spends his time picketing the station, chanting with a loud speaker insults and outrage, until he is finally given his shot. From that moment on, the people of the Washington D.C. are never able to forget the impact of the foul mouthed, philandering DJ who had refreshing penchant for telling it exactly as it is.
Talk To Me is really the story of two men, Petey as the rising star DJ, and Dewey who manages the cheeky, playful and very funny DJ all the way to the summit of career possibilities. As Petey faithfully remains true to himself, his destructive habits bear their toll and Dewey, who lacked for many years the strength to be who Petey was, works earnestly to create celebrity and success.
The film covers the life and times of the well respected DJ, through his years of doing radio, to TV and stand-up. The performance by Don Cheadle as the likeable but challenging Petey is nothing short of fantastic. Don Cheadle is one of the most talented actors alive today and working opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of the most important new actors, creates an experience that is as funny as it is dramatic, and as serious as it is lighthearted. Taraji P. Henson also stars as Vernell Watson, Petey’s longtime girlfriend. Again, in line with the strength of the lead actors, Taraji, who can be seen on this season of ABC’s ‘Boston Legal’, creates a remarkable character in Vernell, a lady who is every bit as outrageous as Petey, but more tempered in the ways of life and a little more grounded. Also starring in smaller supporting roles are Martin Sheen, Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps.
Talk To Me is a wonderful film. It is set against the backdrop of the turbulent 60’s, as America’s military presence in Southeast Asia drew protests and growing outrage and the struggle for civil rights being ceaselessly waged across the country. In one of the films most absorbing scenes, Petey must announce the news that the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated outside a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. As the streets of D.C. erupt in anger fueled violence, Petey returns to the air to be the voice of outrage and reason for the city. He becomes an impassioned vessel and voice for his listeners, helping to restore calm and refocus the distraught people of the nation’s capitol on the ideals that Reverend King lived and fought for.
Kasi Lemmons, a rarity in Hollywood, as a black female director in an industry dominated by men, handles the material with sincerity. Again, the emotional scene announcing Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, filmed with tight close-ups, is so wonderfully framed and expertly pieced together – that it pulls us into the world of Peter at that powerful moment.
Another strength I found in this film comes from the excellent script. The long monologues that Petey gave on the air seem to ring out like poetry at times and the serious minded and intelligent voice that simmers beneath the surface of the film gives rise to genuine moments of greatness. The film invites the viewer to invest not only in the story and characters, but also in what the characters themselves were pursuing in their own way, the need to do something; to say something and to be heard.
Universal Pictures presents Talk to Me in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 1080i high definition and encoded VC-1. The film has a real flavour of the 70’s, slightly washed out and drained of colour, but only enough to be a nod of the hat to the look and feel of that decade. The image quality is lovely and sharp, showing a nice crisp element to each scene that makes this HD-DVD great to see.
This HD-DVD comes with Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio options. A film that is mostly dialogue, the presentation here is very good indeed. Clean sounding center channel, where most of the dialogue occurs, coupled with the superb soundtrack from that era (with some fantastic songs from the day) that envelopes the viewer with the surround and gives the sub-woofer something to think about – the audio can really come alive. The most notable and impressive demonstration of the audio quality comes during the riot taking place in downtown D.C. after news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination spreads. The turmoil in the streets, explosions and roaring flames and anger are represented so well that you feel as though you are a part of the riot itself.
Deleted Scenes : – (8:35) – The six deleted scenes available on this HD-DVD add some good context and further fleshing out of some existing scenes and add a little more to the relationship between Petey and Dewey.
Who is Petey Greene? : – (10:13) – A brief making of that has some good comments from the stars but doesn’t do anything to really provide insight into the man explored in the film. This is the kind of film that begs to have the real life character understood in greater detail in the way good DVD documentary’s can. Alas, nothing so interesting or valuable is found in this ‘making of’.
Recreating P-Town : – (11:06) – This nice little extra discusses the creation of the 1970’s, from the production design to the wardrobe and the choices to drain the movie of color to achieve the retro-feel.
Talk To Me is easy to recommend, as much for what is tells us about the past as what it says about today. The bold and unfettered voice of truth is as needed and welcome today as it has always been.
The late Petey Green may have lived hard, but he managed to make an indelible impression on those who knew of him. Dead at 53, he lived without a filter on his speech, and as he would say, “I'll tell it to the hot, I'll tell it to the cold. I'll tell it to the young, I'll tell it to the old. I don't want no laughin', I don't want no cryin', and most of all, no signifyin'. This is Petey Greene's Washington…”
I imagine Talk To Me will be remembered come awards season, and deserving it will be.