Talk to Me is a story that, interestingly, is historically relevant. Throughout U.S. history, African-Americans constantly struggled to have their voices heard. It would take the voices of the most influential members of the black community to bring change, such as that of Dr. Martin Luther King. Now, I won’t digress further, because this is supposed to be a film review, not a historical lesson. The bottom line is that the movie Talk to Me deals with this same historical theme: finding a voice.
In this movie, the voice belongs to a man named Ralph “Petey” Greene, played very well by Don Cheadle. Petey is a convict who enjoys speaking to the other inmates on prison radio. Meanwhile, a radio program director named Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) visit his brother Milo (Mike Epps) in this same prison. Dewey learns about Petey from Milo and soon crosses paths with the inmate radio personality. Although the two chat just briefly, Dewey hints that he could offer Petey a job in radio.
Once Petey is released from prison, he and his girlfriend Vernell (Taraji P. Henson) storm into the radio station WOL 1450 AM in Washington, D.C., where Dewey works. The next several scenes are interesting for several reasons. First, there is a contrast between Dewey and Petey. Dewey is an educated and successful black man whereas Petey is a black man who chose to be a vulgar hustler. Despite these differences, Dewey sees something in Petey and feels a slight connection. This ultimately leads to Petey doing his first on-air gig at WOL, to the dismay of Dewey’s boss E.G. Sonderling (Martin Sheen).
For a while, the situation seems no different from what Howard Stern did to attract an audience. Petey speaks honestly without fear of offending others. It is quite amusing to watch. However, the great thing about this movie is that it doesn’t maintain this tone all the time. It alternates between amusement that makes us smile and drama that saddens us. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie occurs when a terrible incident enrages the black community and Petey speaks about it from his heart. He doesn’t make any attempt to make light of it. By doing this, he shows the true side that lurks underneath his sarcastic attitude.
From there, plenty of interesting things happen. They are laced with themes about friendship and the meaning of success that each individual chooses from himself or herself. By the time the movie ends, it becomes clear that Talk to Me is more than just a story about a man’s life. It’s about his inspiring message of finding one’s voice and bringing a community together. With this and Don Cheadle’s solid performance, the real Petey Greene would certainly be proud of this movie about him.
Anthony’s Rating: 9/10