December 6, 2007 -- “Talk to Me” brings vibrant black culture of the 1960s back to life, with the aid of flamboyant costumes and exquisite, soulful music. Based on a true story, this story highlights the career of an ex-con turned Washington DC deejay who held sway in the nation's capital during a critical time in its history.
Most of all, however, this film is the story of a magnificent friendship between two men, the straight-laced Dewey Hughes, program director for WOL in DC (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor of “Children of Men”), and mercurial disc jockey Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene (Don Cheadle of “Hotel Rwanda”). The two meet in Lofton Reformatory, where Greene spins records while serving his 10-year sentence for armed robbery. Hughes is in prison to visit his brother, Milo (Mike Epps). Greene wants a job as a deejay and Greene says “come see me” after he gets out of prison, which he assumes will be years in the future, given Greene's long sentence. Greene, however, wrangles an early release and comes calling. Greene's visit turns the radio station into an uproar. Greene thought that Hughes had made him a job offer, but that wasn't Hughes' intention. Greene stirs up a crowd outside the station, protesting his treatment.
Hughes finally has a long talk with Greene and decides the guy has talent. Sticking his neck out as far as it can go, he and Greene pull a stunt at the station that could easily get Hughes fired, and maybe hauled off to jail. It works, and Greene is hired as a morning drive time deejay, a job he was born to do. He is wildly successful with his own television show Petey Greene's Washington, on WDCA-TV, and even an appearance on Johnny Carson's late night talk show on NBC television. Hughes becomes Greene's full-time agent and has dreams of him on network television and in movies. Greene, however, isn't comfortable with the career that Hughes wants for him. Eventually, there is a blowup, which turns into a fight, landing both of them in jail. The two don't speak for years after their fight.
Before the fight, and before Greene's final battles with ill health and alcoholism, Greene's finest hour came on the night of April 4, 1968 when civil rights leader Martin Luther King was shot and killed by a white assassin. Washington D.C. erupted into riots. Green stayed on the air all night and helped to calm the rioters. He is widely credited with saving a lot of lives and property that night. Greene was invited to the White House in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. He was a community activist who worked to help ex-convicts find jobs. When he died of cancer in 1984 up to 20,000 mourners came to pay their last respects. Hughes also was very successful, eventually becoming a successful deejay in his own right, buying his own radio station and producing television shows. He went on to win 10 Emmy Awards with WRC-TV. When they finally reconciled, Hughes admitted to Greene that he could not have done what he did without Greene's inspiration. Greene also admitted that he could not have succeeded without Hughes' help. The two complimented each other in many ways.
The other main character in this film is Greene's volatile girlfriend, Vernell Watson (Taraji P. Henson of “Smokin' Aces”). She plays the kind of strong woman you seldom see in movies. I've seen Henson quite a few times on the TV show “Boston Legal,” where she is a regular, but the stunning clothes she wears in “Talk to Me” show that she looks a whole lot better when she isn't dressed like a conservative lawyer. I mean this woman is fine. She gives a powerful performance as a woman who supports and encourages her man to succeed, but if she is betrayed, watch out! The three leading performances in this film are outstanding, with good support from Cedric the Entertainer, Martin Sheen and Vondie Curtis-Hall. This is a good movie about a powerful friendship, and it brings a bygone era back to life. It rates a B.
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