Extremely outspoken ex-convict Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene Jr. (Don Cheadle) becomes a successful radio DJ in late '60s Washington, D.C. with the help of production manager Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Based on actual events, the film is peppered with R&B classics of the era, plus tight pants, tall shoes and Afros galore.
Big question: Can director Kasi Lemmons tune us into this true story with her first feature since 2001's "The Caveman's Valentine"?
Catch it: Ooh, boy, this movie's got the funk AND the soul. Brought home by the infinitely versatile Cheadle, "Talk to Me" is an irresistible salute to an on-air voice that could unite the people and bring as much love for the man spinning the tunes as the man singing them.
Skip it: If you think only people with book smarts can get ahead in the world. As Petey tells listeners, he has an 8th grade education and "a Ph.D. from the streets."
Bottom line: The movie falters by suggesting that popularity didn't jive with Petey--who descends into alcohol abuse and shies away from listeners-- when in reality he still connected with the people even as his fame grew. But "Talk to Me" is a film that isn't afraid to believe in something and someone: a man unafraid of anger and the truth, who wouldn't let anyone else's words come out of his mouth.
Bonus: A lesson to take from Petey's first show: If you're looking to make a good first impression--on a date, on the radio, whatever--try to keep the burping to a minimum!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'Talk to Me'
Directed by Kasi Lemmons; screenplay by Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa; photographed by Stephane Fontaine; edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire; music by Terence Blanchard; production design by Warren Alan Young; produced by Mark Gordon, Sidney Kimmel, Joe Fries and Josh McLaughlin. A Focus Features release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:58. MPAA rating: R (for pervasive language and some sexual content).
Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene Jr. - Don Cheadle
Dewey Hughes - Chiwetel Ejiofor
Nighthawk - Cedric The Entertainer
Vernell Watson - Taraji P. Henson
E.G. Sonderling - Martin SheenCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times