Critics’ Connection: Beyond the Lights

Beyond the Lights photoBeyond the Lights is the story of Noni, the music industry’s latest superstar. But not all is what it seems, and the pressures of fame have Noni on the edge – until she meets Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician. It is ultimately Kaz’s love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover. Directed by Gina Prince-Blythewood. Written by Gina Prince-Blythewood, Reggie Rock-Bythewood.

What the critics are saying about Beyond the Lights:

The Hollywood Reporter: David Rooney states midway through Beyond the Lights, Minnie Driver’s character, a brassy South London showbiz mother who gives Gypsy’s Rose a run for her money, snarls at her flailing supernova daughter, “Congratulations, you’re a bloody cliché!”  That might be true, but Gina Prince-Bythewood’s entertaining music-biz melodrama is no less satisfying for the familiarity of its soapy trajectory. As the stunned deer in the headlights of fame, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is incandescent, playing a vulnerable young woman suffocating in the processed packaging of a sizzling pop goddess. Strong chemistry with co-star Nate Parker and a pulsing soundtrack should help give this November Relativity release a legitimate commercial shot.  See full review at The Hollywood Reporter.

Entertainment Weekly: Leah Greenblatt says, both Mbatha-Raw and Parker are appealing, expressive actors, and writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) lets them breathe, filling in the boilerplate bones of the story with smartly nuanced commentary on race and fame and the relentless negotiations that a young woman—even one without a record deal—has to make in a world that expects her to be everything but herself.  See full review at Entertainment Weekly.

New York Post: Kyle Smith writes, the teary-eyed sincerity of the music-industry drama Beyond the Lights is at times too much, but despite its cliché elements, the film at least has the feel of a passion project. The rare Hollywood feature that is written and directed by a woman (Gina Prince-Bythewood), Beyond the Lights is an obvious, middling chick flick that moves far too slowly from each predictable plot point to the next. But with its glitzy showbiz backdrop, its lively musical numbers and its theme of self-actualization, it’ll probably connect with fans of The Bodyguard See full review at  New York Post.

USA Today: Claudia Puig, notes, while melodramatic in the vein of A Star Is Born, Beyond the Lights is also a wise and open-hearted look at the price of fame upon personal identity. A romantic drama set amid the music industry, it also provides a powerful message to girls and young women not to conform to hypersexualized hip-hop images.

Though it sounds like a cross between The Bodyguard and the plot of a contemporary romance novel, this movie has more substantive ideas on its mind. Somehow, miraculously, the predictable saga skirts cliché. The soundtrack fuels the movie, but it’s essentially about finding one’s way and embarking on an authentic life plan. While this could have been an all-too-predictable tale (hampered by a clunky title), the familiar story is buoyed by terrific performances by a pair of talented, charismatic actors. Parker conveys an innate sense of decency and strength as well as sensitivity. Mbatha-Raw projects vulnerability, intelligence and warmth, and is thoroughly believable as a singer. See full review at USA Today.

Photo Source:  Suzanne Tenner / Relativity Media.

Note:  The content of this post is adapted from the primary sources as referenced above.  Click on the links to read the original reviews in their entirety.

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