Days of Future and Past
Boy Willie (Charles S. Dutton - Zooman) has a chance of buying some land so that he can work for himself rather than someone else; trouble is he hasn't got the money. It is why he heads down to his sister, Bernie's (Alfre Woodard - How to Make an American Quilt), place with a truck full of water melons as whilst planning on selling them he also plans on selling the piano, a family heirloom which Bernie has in her home. Trouble is, there is no way that Bernie is going to allow him to sell the heirloom no matter how many plans he comes up with.
As a white man in his 40s who has only ever lived in England I doubt I am the right person to review "The Piano Lesson", this made for TV adaptation of an August Wilson play. In fact I reckon if I had come across it back in 1995 I probably wouldn't have even watched it for the simple reason it wasn't the sort of action movie or sports drama I enjoyed when I was in my twenties. But now "The Piano Lesson" is the sort of movie I chose to watch even if may be I don't fully appreciate the depth of the story.
So what do I think it is about? Well I think "The Piano Lesson" is about change as we have Bernie holding on to the family beautifully engraved piano with carvings which tell her family history of being slaves. But we have her brother who doesn't hold dear the history of his family and sees the piano as a way of escaping the slavery which has been a big part of his family and making something of himself. We also have old wounds surrounding the death of Bernie's first husband and her own moving on when it comes to relationships. As such this is all about the lesson which the piano teaches both Willie and Bernie when it comes to respecting the past but making something of the future.
The thing is I maybe wrong in my understanding and "The Piano Lesson" is not about respecting the past but embracing the huture. I say that because there appears to be some sort of a ghost story going on and to be honest whilst I enjoyed the movie I finished it not entirely sure I got it.
Despite this "The Piano Lesson" certainly has some entertaining performances with Charles S. Dutton playing the part of Willie as larger than life with big movements and facial expressions when it comes to the way he reacts. And Alfre Woodard delivers a powerful performance with fewer words and provides a nice contrast between Willie and Bernie when it comes to their mentalities to their past.
What this all boils down to is that "The Piano Lesson" is an entertaining look at African American culture delivering the contrast between attitudes in a family where one holds on to the past whilst another wants to move on from the past. It is a movie which whilst having some captivating musical scenes is all about the acting with Charles S. Dutton leading the way with a memorable performance.