Movie Review: “Beyond the Lights” – Lacks a Spark

Written by Caitlin Cooper December 05, 2014

beyond the lights

There have been a lot of films which show the lives of celebrities behind the scenes. Most tend to glamorize it while a few expose the harsh realities of what these people go through for the sake of entertainment. “Beyond the Lights” falls somewhere in the middle, but glosses over the seriousness of the situation by losing sight of its original message and instead places the romance at the forefront of the film.

“Beyond the Lights”, written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, tells the story of Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman whose love for singing has been twisted into something like slavery by her pushy manager mom (Minnie Driver), record label executives, and basically everyone around her. The pressure she’s under becomes too much, and she makes a drastic decision of how to get out of it. But Kaz (Nate Parker), a cop with dreams of being in politics, pulls her out of the darkness and encourages her to stand up for herself and say what she wants and needs.

“She needs to be in a hospital, not in front of cameras.”

The premise of “Beyond the Lights” was promising, but the script was really lacking. Sure, there are some powerful moments, like when Noni removes all of the fake hair, etc. that makes her Noni: Superstar, and when she finally has the courage to tell her mom off for being a bully. The rest of the film, however, is underwhelming. I think it could have gone farther, in some ways. There are only really a small handful of scenes which actually address the horrific way Noni is treated, and for that reason the trailer kind of lies about what the film is trying to say. “Beyond the Lights” honestly had so much potential, but not much of it is realized. What is meant to be an important and moving scene between Noni and her mom is just flat, and it doesn’t seem like much of anything is really resolved.

beyond the lights

“Beyond the Lights” really pushes itself as a romance. That’s all well and good except that I wasn’t convinced by the romance at all. Kaz saves her and says he sees beyond the role she plays, but that doesn’t explain why they immediately jump into some odd relationship. The film has a really long montage in the second half to convince the audience that yes, this relationship is real and let’s root for it! But honestly, the montage was boring. Also, if you have to use a montage to convince the audience that the relationship is well-written, then it’s not well-written. One of the only things that stood out to me about the two characters is that both are pressured by family to follow a certain path. It’s a nice parallel, but I wish it had been explored just a little bit more.

“No one cares what I have to say.”

The one thing the film has going for it, aside from its occasional good scene, is the good acting. Mbatha-Raw – previously in the wonderful “Belle” – does so well in high-emotion scenes. It’s unfortunate the script didn’t much allow for her to express a lot of emotion. The scene in which she breaks down after being assaulted on stage during a performance by a rapper she collaborated with is probably one of the best scenes in the film simply because she portrays the utter despair so well. Parker plays, in some ways, a secondary character yet he repeatedly delivers powerful lines in a powerful way. Driver usually does well in any role she has, and the case is no different in “Beyond the Lights”.

beyond the lights

Overall, “Beyond the Lights” had promise of being a moving drama that explores the harsh realities celebrities may face in their personal lives, but the script was unemotional, unconvincing, and at times so cliche and cheesy. The acting was good, but sadly not enough to save a weak script.

My Rating: 4.5/10

beyond the lights

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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