Trailer Park: If Beale Street Could Talk Looks Like A Worthy Moonlight Follow-Up
Barry Jenkins could’ve just gone to Disneyland. After the barnstorming success of Moonlight, culminating in a (somewhat bungled) Oscar win, he earned himself some time off. Instead, he’s parlayed that hype and headed straight into his next project: an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk, with the latest trailer released this week.
As with Moonlight and his lesser-seen debut, Medicine for Melancholy, If Beale Street Could Talk is attuned to specific social issues and the experience of black Americans. In this case, Jenkins has travelled back a couple of decades, when those things were…still pretty potent. Baldwin’s book follows Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) young lovers whose romance is seriously complicated when the latter is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and the former finds she’s pregnant.
It sounds like the stuff of melodrama, but Baldwin’s books were always as authentic and humanistic as they were lyrically written. Jenkins certainly didn’t shy away from difficult subject matter in Moonlight, either, and here it appears he’s once more balancing that grittiness with elegant visuals which once again recall key influence likes Wong Kar-Wai.
He’s also working with a mostly unknown cast once more, with KiKi Layne making her feature debut — she’s also set to appear in next year’s Captive State — and Stephan James stepping up for his first major lead role after playing minor parts in the likes of Selma. The cast is rounded out by Regina King (Ray, Boyz n the Hood) and Teyonah Parris (a stand out in Dear With People and Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq).
Jenkins had the luxury of making Moonlight without much expectation. After that film’s Oscar win, all eyes are on him. On the basis of this trailer, though, he’s not feeling the stress.
If Beale Street Could Talk will premiere at the London Film Festival, before getting a wide release in January 2019.