Angie Thomas’s YA novel ‘The Hate U Give’ topped bestseller lists last year, but did the movie adaptation do it justice? YES. This film is essential. Here’s why!
You know how disappointing it is when a movie just doesn’t do a book justice? Fortunately, that isn’t the case here — far from it. In fact, The Hate U Give takes Angie Thomas‘ powerful novel and transforms it into a coming-of-age story that’s impossibly more heart wrenching to watch on screen than it is to read. So bring tissues when you see it because Starr Carter’s story is an intensely emotional one. Played by Amandla Stenberg, 19, the high school student has been bouncing back and forth between two versions of herself — the Starr she is at home in Garden Heights, and the Starr 2.0 she becomes at her predominantly white school — when everything she thinks about race is rocked by the shooting of a childhood friend by a white cop.
This would be heartbreaking enough for Starr, who used to play Harry Potter with Khalil (Algee Smith), but she is also the sole witness to his murder. The old friends are pulled over after leaving a party that turned south, when Khalil is told to exit the car. He leans back in through the window to check on Starr and reach for a hairbrush, when he is shot multiple times. The teen dies on the street while Starr sits beside him, handcuffed. What follows is an extremely complicated aftermath as she mourns her first friend — and first kiss — while struggling with the decision to go public with her eyewitness account or not. Speaking for a grand jury may be nerve wracking, but exposing herself to the kids at school as the girl in the car with Khalil? That’s just as scary.
That’s because Starr’s school is lacking in diversity, which is made incredibly clear by her conversations with friend and basketball teammate Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter). While her actions don’t rise to the level of racism displayed by the cop, Hailey’s comments about fried chicken and the All Lives Matter ‘movement,’ definitely count as microaggressions. Starr’s white boyfriend, on the other hand, spends the entire movie trying to get close to her and show his support while Starr holds him at an arm’s length.
She’s got so much to grapple with, and those two complicated relationships are only scratching the surface! She also has an uncle who is a cop on the force with the man who shot Khalil, plus a tight-knit family targeted by the local gang her father used to lead, the King Lords. Maverick left the group after doing time in prison, and his ex-partner wants Starr to keep her mouth shut about Khalil’s death — and proves he’ll do anything to make that happen.
This is clearly an intense story, and it never lets up. While the inspiration for it stemmed from Oscar Grant‘s murder by a cop in 2009, multiple tragedies of this kind were publicized as Angie wrote and published The Hate U Give, from Eric Garner to Emmett Till to Michael Brown. With those victims in mind, there has never been a better time for this movie to get audiences talking.
Starr’s story is such an important one as she finds the strength in her own voice, and Amandla handles the role with a fierce grace. She’s at her best in this emotional film, nailing the raw moments as well as the funny ones sprinkled throughout.
See The Hate U Give when it hits theaters Friday, Oct. 19, to watch her incredible performance — and find out the important meaning behind the movie’s title. Don’t forget to bring the Kleenex — and as many friends as you can!