Sundance 2018: 'Blindspotting' is a Very Fresh, Bold, Modern Comedy
by Alex Billington
January 20, 2018
We're living in a time where art, including cinema, must speak loudly about today's times, today's society and what's happening all around us. It's not just important social commentary, but a chance to really make us think and ask questions and hold a mirror up to ourselves. One of the best films from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to do exactly that is a called Blindspotting, from filmmaker Carlos López Estrada making his feature directorial debut. This film is kind of a buddy comedy, about two friends from Oakland, California dealing with the craziness of contemporary times. Half of the film is a hilarious smackdown of hipsters and gentrification, but the other half is a very fresh, bold, in-your-face commentary on society, racism, and the inherent biases that are eroding society these days. I really loved this film, it's ambitious yet still enjoyable.
Blindspotting introduces us to Collin, played brilliantly Daveed Diggs, who is finishing up the last few days after a year on probation at a half-way house in Oakland. He's doing his best to steer clear of any more potential problems, cleaning up his life so he can emerge and never have to ever go back to prison again. His life-long friend is Miles, played by Rafael Casal, a fast-talking white boy who is raising a small family, but still gets into trouble running around the streets. The two of them work for a moving company, driving a truck around to various jobs in the Oakland area. There's so much about this film that is fresh and exciting and fun to watch, recalling great comedies like Half Baked and Do the Right Thing. But it goes beyond just good comedy and juggles a handful of social issues, mainly racism, in an intelligent, doesn't-hold-back way.
Director Carlos López Estrada shows that he has so much potential beyond just this film, but that doesn't mean this one will be forgotten. If anything, it is sure to go on and become a cult classic, and should earn a strong following with modern audiences that will admire that audacious social commentary and amusing jokes about green juice and hipsters. It's a bit tough to balance this tone perfectly, and the film bounces back and forth in a bumpy way. They really try to throw in everything, discussing so much of what's going on and how we're all aware of it but not doing much to change it. But remarkably Estrada handles all of this and puts it together in an engaging, entertaining package that hits hard in the last 20 minutes. There's one scene in particular that I loved, and even though it is in-your-face, it's exactly the right fearless step for the film.
More than anything, I have to say how totally awesome Daveed Diggs is in the lead role. He plays a person you want to be friends with. He's deep and smart, but fun, though not a caricature or exaggerated creation. He represents the kind of person you will meet that has so many different sides, and can't be judged solely by the way he looks. There's so much more to him, and once you get know him, you realize there's so much to learn from him if only you can make sure to step out of the way and let him lead. And I think this is one of the good things the film can teach us - to embrace and follow those who do have their shit together, even if we don't want to believe it based on a biased impression of them. And that's just the start - this film speaks loudly, and doesn't mind being all up in your face, in hopes that we will all learn something from it. Dig it.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing