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July 2007

By Wilson Morales


Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Producers: Gordon, Kimmel, Joe Fries, Josh McLaughlin
Screenwriters: Michael Genet, Rick Famuyiwa, Kasi Lemmons
Composer: Terence Blanchard
Cast: Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson, Mike Epps, Vondie Curtis Hall, Cedric the Entertainer, Martin Sheen


here have been a lot of biopics lately and the ones that are good and great are usually the films that generate Oscar talk. A person’s life can never be told in a single film. There’s too much information and not enough time to display the good, the bad, and the merits. While Jamie Foxx (Ray), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), and others have shown a new range when doing these films, and there are others who continue to excel with each performance. Don Cheadle has been consistent from the moment he played the character Mouse opposite Denzel Washington in “The Devil in a Blue Dress”. From that film to his role as Sammy Davis Jr. to next one and all the way up to his Oscar nominated role as Paul Rusesabagina in “Hotel Rwanda”, Cheadle has always reinvented himself in the character he’s playing and manages to allow the audience to see who the character was and is and not who’s playing him. That’s why in his latest film, “Talk to Me”, Cheadle once again brings to life the man that many have forgotten. As Petey Greene, Cheadle brings hope and courage, and a voice that reflected how the truth should be told.

For whatever crimes he did and landed some time in jail, Ralph “Petey” Greene (Cheadle) always had a voice. The minute he came out he out he wanted on the air to speak the truth. To wake up America and tell them how life is rather than sugarcoat the truth because of politics and corporate sponsors. Through his reluctant but trusted friend, WOL-AM program director Dewey Hughes (Ejiofor), Greene eventually landed a radio hosting gig and spoke his mind, much to the chagrin of his employer, E. G Sonderling (Sheen). They couldn’t stop him because after all, it’s all about business, and when the calls were lighting up and ratings improved dramatically, he stayed on top. Greene was also a ladies’ man, which made it difficult for him to stay true to his one and only Vernell (Henson). Time after time, he would do her wrong, but she stuck it out every so often thinking she make him do right by her.

As times changed, so does the system and persona. Heads got bigger, and Petey elevated to a bigger platform with Dewey right there with him. Dewey had higher aspirations though, wanted the grand spotlight with Petey has his voice. The world was theirs, but Petey wanted none of it, just wanting to be as he is. Some players don’t want to be managers. They just want to play and play the same game as they know it. When the time came for Petey and Dewey to go on with different paths, it was difficult but the one thing that stayed constant was a glimmer of friendship and that’s where the heart of the film is.

As commanding and riveting that Cheadle is as Petey, he is easily matched by the performance of Ejoifor. This is the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of the year. These two actors compliment each other with every scene they are in. Underused to a major degree are Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps, but that if you came looking for some comic relief from these two. As small as his role is, Epps shows sign that he too can be serious for a change and flip his game too as an actor. As the only composite character in the film, Henson proves again that she can make a character believable and stay on par with her male leads. Director Lemmons chose to make a film that most folks didn’t know of or probably forgot, but in choosing her cast, especially Cheadle, she found a player that could carry her film and give Petey Greene the due respect and name recognition he should have received long ago.