Review: Well-intended jazz drama ‘Flock of Four’ awkwardly addresses cultural appropriation
An amateur quartet of white teenage jazz fans from Pasadena have an all-night adventure in Los Angeles’s jazz hub — legendary Central Avenue, circa 1959 — in the well-meaning if stumbling “Flock of Four,” the debut feature of director/co-writer Gregory Caruso. Joey (Braeden LeMasters), a student of jazz and the group’s most talented musician, is dead set on going to L.A.’s dominant black neighborhood to see his deceased dad’s idol, a near-forgotten legend named Pope Dixon (the late Reg E. Cathey, in one of his last roles).
With his friends in tow and his protective older brother (Shane Harper) in worried pursuit, Joey follows a trail that leads first to an upscale bebop club, then a divey blues hangout and finally the Dunbar, the famous African American hotel.
Though every location is photographed with an almost stately reverence, it is, yes, another mini-odyssey of black history through white eyes, boasting some clunky attempts to steer its most prominent black characters toward respect for Joey’s enthusiasm: a brooding young drummer Clifford (Nadji Jeter) whose cultural appropriation fear is portrayed as a chip on his shoulder, and his smiling chanteuse sister (Coco Jones) who blithely follows these unknown white boys into the night.
Thankfully, in his meet-the-master scene, Cathey brings a burnished, bone-deep authority to the question of who music belongs to, and it’s handled in a way that doesn’t forgive the movie’s tonal missteps, but also doesn’t dampen its earnest nostalgia for a lost time.
‘Flock of Four’
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West L.A.; Pacific Glendale 18; AMC Covina 17
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