HOLLYWOOD—Have you ever wanted a sneak peak of the ins-and-outs of the music industry? Really want to know what transpires behind the scenes? Well, a new musical drama, “Beyond The Lights” gives the viewer a taste of that world, but also the price of fame and being a celebrity can have on an individual’s psyche.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw portrays rising musician Noni Jean. She smiles, she exudes charisma, and she is a people pleaser on all fronts. To be in the spotlight, you have to do what is asked of you, which Noni does without a second glance, until the pressure to become a superstar nearly causes her to take her own life.
Yes, “Beyond the Lights” deals with some heavy themes, and while not based on a true-story, it has many similarities to the pressure of working in the music industry. So who is there to save Noni from peril? Police officer Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), who has aspirations of his own.
The two youngsters immediately begin to bond as they share details from their life. Nicol aspires to work in politics, while Noni dreams of being the musician that she wants to be, not who everyone wants her to be. Pulling strings to divert our protagonists are Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) and Captain David Nicol (Danny Glover).
Driver brings a harsh reality to the lengths that a manager will go to ensure success, not just for themselves, but for the artist that is their paycheck. She’s quite frightening in the role if you ask me. Glover is also good as a dream crusher, as he does his best to keep his son form becoming too involved with someone he sees as a train wreck.
The film is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood who has a knack for smart direction and manifesting compelling narratives. Her previous works include “Love and Basketball” and “The Secret Life of Bees.” There is a lot of heart in this movie, and the level of emotions that the audience encounters is burst of fresh air. Mbatha-Raw is indeed the star of the flick bringing a level of passion, uncontrollable vulnerability and disdain to a character that the audience knows is desperate to break free, but constantly fighting to do so.
The movie shines light on life itself; how we have aspirations, but at times we have those ‘people’ fighting to push us in another direction, even if they know it’s not something we prefer. It’s about finding one’s voice and not being afraid to shout, scream, and yell to be heard regardless of how others might perceive you.
“Beyond the Lights” allows the audience to realize its okay to take chances, not just in your career, but when it comes to love. I’d argue that it truly centers on the message of being yourself; shine as the person you know you are, not the person that everyone wants you to be.
By David Miller