Annapurna Pictures has released the first trailer for Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin novel adaptation, If Beale Street Could Talk. The preview was released online to coincidence with the late Baldwin's birthday and even features archival audio of the ground-breaking author speaking.
Based on the 1974 book by Baldwin (which gets its name from the W.C. Handy tune "Beale Street Blues"), If Beale Street Could Talk was actually written by Jenkins over the eight year period between his debut film, Medicine for Melancholy, and Moonlight (which hit theaters in 2016). The story revolves around Clementine "Tish" Rivers (Kiki Layne), a nineteen year old woman from Harlem who falls in love with - and becomes engaged to - Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt (Stephan James), an up and coming sculptor. However, when Fonny is falsely accused of rape and sent to prison, it falls to Tish to race against time and prove his innocence, before it's too late.
In addition to the aforementioned "narration" by Baldwin, the If Beale Street Could Talk trailer establishes the tone and style of Jenkins' adaptation, while alluding to the actual story in broader strokes. The film reunites Jenkins with his Moonlight cinematographer James Laxton and the "James Baldwin Birthday Teaser" footage alone utilizes many of the same visual techniques (face-forward closeups, sharply-lit scenes set at night) that were used for the duo's Best Picture Oscar-winning coming of age(s) drama, to widely celebrated effect. Suffice it to say, this trailer formally throws Jenkins' name in the ring as a contender in this year's awards season to come.
Interestingly enough, there could be something of a repeat of the 2016 movie awards season this year. Back then, Moonlight and Damien Chazelle's La La Land were released but a few months apart, in the lead-up to the infamous 2017 Oscar ceremony snafu where Chazelle's musical was declared Best Picture before it was revealed that Jenkins' film had really won. Jump ahead to the present-day and Chazelle is now set to release his buzzed-about Neil Armstrong memoir First Man in theaters this October, with If Beale Street Could Talk arriving on the scene less than two months after.
Of course, for those uninterested in all the Oscar talk, this just means two filmmakers only now entering their prime will have new offerings in theaters this fall/winter. Like First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk will hit the film festival circuit well ahead of its domestic release, in a bid to further generate interest and (hopefully, positive) buzz around the movie. Both projects will join a prestigious lineup that includes features by world-renowned storytellers like the Coens (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Luca Guadagnino (Suspiria), and Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), in that regard.
Source: Annapurna Pictures
- If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018