Movie review: On the Come Up

The book On The Come Up has recently been turned into a movie, and unfortunately, it follows the standard Black-film-dedicated-to-the-white-audience trope.

About The Author

The original novel, following the universe that The Hate U Give is placed in, was written by Angie Thomas.

Thomas’ work has been very influential in our time, as she turns many current events into consumable and enjoyable fiction. She writes about topics from sexism, to racism and police brutality.

As a former teen rapper, Angie Thomas had a lot to say about the rap game in her latest novel turned into a movie, On The Come Up. Thomas’ work is truly amazing, as she is able to turn problems that the Black teens in the real world and her novels face into best sellers.

Angie Thomas was born and raised in Mississippi and grew up witnessing lots of drugs and crime in her time. She knows what the streets can do to someone and the way that she is able to tie love and pain into her work has touched many peoples’ hearts and made her popular among the Black literature community.

Her amazing storytelling skills and world-building technique started in college during her senior year at Belhaven University. She holds a BFA in creative writing and an unofficial degree in hip-hop, so she is street-smart and educated.

All of her novels and movies do a perfect job of displaying the life of a Black teen in America.

The Movie

The original novel was written in 2019 and the movie was recently released on Sept. 23.

The film features 16-year-old Bri (Jamila Gray) living in the city of Garden Heights and trying to follow in her rap MC father Lawless’ footsteps to become a big-time rapper. Rapping is in her blood, so she has the talent, but her father getting fatally shot gives many of her opponents ammo to talk about. Now Bri, left with her older brother and her recovering addict mother Jay (Sanaa Lathan), retreated to The Ring led by Hype (Mike Epps) to gain fame with the help of her Aunt Pooh (Da’Vine Joy Ralph). Unfortunately, her hot-headed aunt gets them banned from The Ring because of her pulling a gun and threatening a rival gang in the parking lot. With Bri’s family struggling she resorts to the man that got her father famous, Supreme (Method Man).

Unfortunately, this is the part where the film starts lacking. The original novel by Angie Thomas had amazing storytelling skills and grounded Bri perfectly, portraying the struggles she faced to be taken seriously and displaying her internal monologues nearly perfectly. The film, however, gives Bri extremely basic monologues and doesn’t do any justice to the world-building that the original novel constructed so well. The lenses confine us to the random buses and cars they show passing, instead of letting us explore what makes this neighborhood so alive.

The innocence that the film tries to give Bri is what distorts the quality even more. It makes it seem like Bri doesn’t understand the consequences of her own actions, but she’s 16. It isn’t believable that she doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into.

The film tries to be an inspiring film about a young girl trying to make it in the rap game but it fails in almost all aspects. Some of the concepts don’t even make sense, the movie references Pandora as a viable streaming platform, and Soundcloud as where music producers publish their music. In reality, the film is disappointing and takes the standard approach every other film makes. The novel was amazing but the film was lacking. Let’s hope Lathan is able to do more justice in her next film.