Beyond the Lights (2014)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good cast, good music

Weak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Beyond the Lights

Studio:  Undisputed Cinema

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s):  September 6, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)/November 14, 2014

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


First flight on an airplane and joining the Mile High Club? Score one for Kaz!

Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a star on the rise.  Working with rapper Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly), Noni and her mother Macy (Minnie Driver) are on the verge of turning Noni into a solo act.  When Noni attempts suicide, she’s saved by her fill in police officer guard Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker) who finds himself thrust into the limelight as Noni’s savior and potential boyfriend.  Noni and Kaz’s relationship is built on a lie when Noni’s press is spun that it was an accident but the lies have to end someday.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Beyond the Lights is a drama with a lot of music.  The film was met with relatively positive reviews and the low budget film did turn a profit.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for “Grateful”.

Beyond the Lights isn’t my type of movie, but that doesn’t mean it was bad.  What easily could have been a teen pop type story turned into a story with some real depth and strong cast.  Though the movie sometimes wobbles, it manages to keep you engaged.


Sing it, Gugu!

The story is part of the problem.  I like that it is almost a ripped from the headlines type story with someone like Brittney Spears or even Jennifer Lopez who married people “not in the business” and deals with showbiz parents as well.  Unfortunately in both senses, the story falls into some clichés and lags at times.

The cast is quite good.  Both Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker hold the screen.  Mbatha-Raw (a Doctor Who vet) feels like she has real star potential and could be on the verge.  Her casting caused Sony to drop out (they wanted a bigger star), but Gugu also helped prove herself by singing all her own songs.  Nate Parker is already making a good name for himself and continues here.  Minnie Driver is strong as the young mother of Gugu, but I felt Danny Glover was a bit underused and underdeveloped.


Simulated rape on stage…seems like a great way to build an audience

The movie looks quite good and while not really a musical has some great music.  It is a shame that more people didn’t see this movie in that sense because it is a lot better than many movies with similar themes.

Beyond the Lights is by no means a perfect movie, but it does have some great stuff in it.  If the story had been ironed out a bit more and a little less of a predictable “fame” story, I think it would have done much better.  If nothing else, take away the acting and songs from Beyond the Lights, but the movie does leave you wanting a bit more.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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