Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

OMG…no more snow! I think even the kids are sick of snow days at this point. I’m sick of the snow, the storm-caused days off from work, but most importantly the endless shoveling. Winter has definitely lost all its charm and I cannot wait for Spring! Oh, the sheer thought of 60° days with warm breezes wafting through the air, shiny green leaves on the trees, and some pretty buds trying to peek through the soil seems a dream. For last Tuesday’s storm I was in the office by 6 AM in order to avoid a horror of a commute, so at 4:30 PM on the dot I was out the door and on the way home with fevered dreams of getting home, taking care of Jasmin, and after a quick dinner jumping into my bed and snuggling in for a long good night sleep but like a good sucker looking for punishment I checked out my OnDemand menu for new releases instead.

I struck gold in my search when I found The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, a small indie film which I’d desperately wanted to see last year and missed because of its limited release and the fact it wasn’t playing in a nearby theater. I didn’t get to bed quite as early as I’d planned but it was definitely worth it; plus, I slept all the better since bedtime came after a thoroughly draining good cry (yes, it’s a tearjerker; I was two-fisting Kleenex tissues it was so freaking sad at times, but watch it anyway because it offers a touching mix of heartbreak and hope all in one).

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete tells the story of 14-year old Mister, an inner city kid living with his mother in a Brooklyn housing project. School just finished and he’s found out that he’ll be repeating the eighth grade, but Mister has bigger problems weighing on his mind, namely his mom Gloria (played by Jennifer Hudson), a heroin addicted prostitute and Pete, the 9-year old son of a co-worker of Gloria’s who has seemingly made their humble apartment his home. Things quickly go from bad to worse when Gloria is arrested by police and in their effort to avoid being taken by child protective services the two young boys are left all alone to fend for themselves over the course of the summer. Facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, they'll have to rely on Mister's courage and can do attitude in order to survive the mean city streets.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete was such a beautiful and moving film. Tears or not, I just loved this gritty, sad, and all too real depiction of the burdens borne by many every day. I’ve heard the film described as part coming-of-age, part survival story, and it is that and so much more. It shines a light on the strength of the human spirit and how against all odds, sheer determination, perseverance and hope can win the day, and it reminds us all that friendship can be our mainstay in life; the pillar and foundation on which our lives are built that helps monsters seem less scary, mountains a little smaller to climb, and tomorrow a better day.

Watching The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete I automatically thought of Home Alone and movies of the like that make being alone in the world as a child (even if only for a few days) seem like a walk in the park, but I (and you'll) quickly realize this film is the complete antithesis of the first. Nope, no trips shopping for laundry detergent and frozen mac and cheese at the local grocery store, or a perfectly set table for one at the end of the day with a hot plate of food, or a sweet elderly neighbor to help them out against the bad guys. Mister & Pete have no cash for food so they have to forage in their own empty cupboards to make a meal (tomato sauce from a jar and canned green beans is dinner one day) and their neighbors only assistance comes when they help themselves to the apartment's front doorknob and steal the TV and all other appliance not nailed down. No clueless robbers to defeat here, but it's the every day obstacles and uncertainties of life, like hunger and illness, that make the fear more palpable and real.

The performances were exceptional. Jennifer Hudson was captivating as Gloria; believably conveying her character's utter hopelessness. Despite Gloria's destructive life decisions and the visible pain and heartbreak they were causing her son, as a viewer you're torn between disliking her and like Mister blaming her for all their woes, and instead feeling sympathy for her plight and understanding the vicious cycle of destructive behavior caused by drug abuse. Skylan Brooks portrayed Mister and he was downright amazing, perfectly capturing Mister's contradiction; tough on the outside but really scared and sad on the inside. He was hard as nails with his mom, disrespectful to his teacher, cynical of the local panhandler's claims of being a veteran, but yet you see him for what he is - just a scared boy - when he's crying in the bathroom stall at school after getting an F. A child forced to be an adult before his time, bearing a boulder-size weight of shame on his too thin shoulders because of his mom (oh, it broke my heart, when he sees scribbled on the bathroom stall walls "for a good time, call mister's mom"). Yet despite all that life has put on his plate, it hasn't beaten him down or erased his sense of hope or his will (or maybe need) to dream, like his dream of being a movie star.

Like I said, it is a tearjerker so grab the Kleenex and put away the sharp knives, but with that said still watch this film. Don't let The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete's dark or depressing material deter you from putting on your big girl panties and watching this incredibly poignant film that practically throbs with emotion -- hurt, anger, love but also hope.