‘The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete’ Is Brilliantly Raw
Rarely does a film focus its lens on the lifestyle of the underprivileged, let alone the hard-knock life of Brooklyn. In fact, everything about The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete is unusual, from its title to its story plot. Executive produced by Alicia Keys and directed by George Tillman Jr., who brought us films like Notorious and Soul Food, the dramatic screenplay follows Mister (played by Skylan Brooks), a 13-year-old living in a Brooklyn project, who’s inextricably down on his luck. With big-names like Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks and Anthony Mackie holding down the supporting roles, the film takes a major theatrical risk by tipping its leading role to a young, little-known actor. But that risk turns out to reap huge rewards for Tillman and company.
The film opens with Mister breaking down in school after flunking his test and coming to grips with having to repeat the eighth grade. “Fuck you,” he tells his teacher, who gives Mister a ride home but catches on to the youngster’s failed attempt at convincing him to pass him on to the next grade. But rather than coming off as an acid-tongued punk, Mister is a sympathetic character whose real battle isn’t in the classroom but at home. His mom (played by Hudson) is an ill-functioning drug addict and prostitute living off food stamps. The mother and son often spar over her immoral lifestyle, which prevents her from being the adult in the relationship, leaving Mister to fend for himself and his younger friend Pete, who stays with them because his mother, too, lives life on the streets. But when Mister’s mom is apprehended by the cops, he and Pete are left alone in the projects while they avoid being found and placed in child protective services.
Mister and Pete do their best to survive a blazing New York summer surrounded by a seemingly hopeless community that’s gripped by poverty and desperation. Despite their misfortune, the two youngsters learn how to make the best out of unfortunate circumstances, and though they’re obliged to be their own keepers, Tillman masterfully reminds you that they’re still kids at the end of the day. In spite of his misgivings, Mister is determined to emerge victorious, as he plans to make it out the ’hood by auditioning for a film and becoming a movie star. Mister’s fantasy isn’t unlike most young boys in the ’hood striving to be rappers or basketball players, in hopes of making it big and escaping the trappings of poverty.
On screen, Skylan Brooks is a natural. Though the young actor is small in size, he’s massive on the big screen. His ability to draw in a gamut of emotions at any given moment is breathtaking. Though Brooks has a few films under his belt in his young career, his performance as Mister will most certainly be his breakout role and may even lead him to Oscar gold. But Brooks isn’t the only impressive on-screen thespian. Jennifer Hudson delivers a jaw-dropping performance. The singer-actor is raw, dark and hauntingly convincing. Though she won an Oscar for 2006’s Dreamgirls, this may be the role that proves she deserves the Academy Award-winner title.
The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete, which opens in select theaters on Oct. 11, may easily be the film of the year. Unlike other favorites like The Butler, there are no Hollywood pulls or politics involved in its delivery. It is simply honest, packed with the hard-telling realities of the millions of everyday untold stories in America.—Gerren Keith Gaynor (@MRGERRENALIST)
XXL Rating: XL