DVD Review: “Talk To Me”

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“Talk to Me” is a biopic about real life Washington DC-based radio DJ and talk show host Ralph ‘Petey’ Greene (played by Don Cheadle) who ruled the airways during the turbulent 1960s. It was a time of protest and social unrest. When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, the city’s furious and frustrated black population broke into riots and widespread looting. It was Green’s no nonsense talk–often rife with his own rage–that actually restored order to the city.

The film traces Green’s rise to fame–and to his demise. Basically, after he’s released from prison and desperately needs a job, he cons his way on to the air. But he turns out to be so innately brilliant at talking truth to a cadre of very responsive listeners, radio producer Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) puts his hard-earned job on the line to keep Petey on the air.

The two men bond as personal and professional cohorts–until distinct differences in their lifestyles cause an irreparable rift in their friendship.

Petey Greene is an alluring character, and it’s easy to see why director Kasi Lemmons made “Talk To Me” her third feature film (after “Eve‘s Bayou” and “The Caveman‘s Valentine”), and she does a wonderful job of capturing the manic energy of Green and the frenetic tone of the times. The film is an absolute tour de force for both Cheadle and Eliofor, who are a great match, each delivering a fully orchestrated and finely tuned performance.

The film is funny and edgy, always entertaining and, in the end, serves as an important history lesson about society then and now.

The DVD offers deleted scenes, plus detailed background information on the life and times of Petey Greene, with the cast commenting on the racial politics of the day, and an additional feature presentation of the lifestyle in P-town (that’s Petey-town, not Provincetown), focusing on the music, fashion and other aspects of the bygone but not forgotten 1960s. It’s a great add to any DVD library.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).