The year 2007 was arguably one of the best for movies. You had classics like No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Zodiac, and Juno. The trouble is that such an exceptional year tends to overshadow movies that were really damn good, instead of exceptional. Such is the case with Talk to Me, a biopic about Petey Greene, an ex-convict who became a beloved radio DJ in 1960s D.C.
Don Cheadle plays Greene, giving a terrific performance as someone who is unapologetically himself, and smart to boot. The film is filled with dialogue that still rings true for D.C. residents. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the radio station manager, who says to his boss, “The problem is we’ve lost touch with the real D.C. and our attempts to win over the beltway. This has always been a station of the people. And in case you forgot, most of the people don’t live in Georgetown.” If you replace “Georgetown” with “The Wharf,” it could be relevant right now.
Like Good Morning Vietnam, Talk to Me starts as a comedy and moves to an incisive social drama. The key scene is in the wake of the MLK assassination and subsequent riots. Greene goes on the radio the next morning, speaking plainly about his frustration and hopelessness. It is the film’s moral high point, leading to a fall from grace that neither Greene nor the Ejiofor character could predict.
The trouble with the streaming age is that unless a movie is readily available on Netflix, Prime, or iTunes, it might as well not exist. There are many good, important films that deserve to be remembered. Talk to Me, and indeed many of the films in the Scene in DC series, are among them.