TIFF 2014 Review: Beyond The Lights
Gina Prince Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights, about a burgeoning pop singer named Noni, (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) does one to two scenes really well, and perhaps not very shockingly, these scenes happen to be set to music.
Noni starts out the film as a streetwise singer, and, as such, requires a music video, (which happens to be a subtle parody of hip-hop videos). But Bythewood is so skilled at shooting this faux music video, featuring Noni in a barely-there outfit, and with a driving beat is so note-perfect that it feels almost a shame to cut it off before it reaches its denouement.
Similarly, a later scene between Noni and her would-be paramour Kaz, (Nate Parker), a security guard who protects Noni a particularly vulnerable moment, features a very interesting and effective way to overcome a fear of flying. This setpiece, set to Beyoncé’s Drunk in Love is a stand-out, slow and sexy to boot.
However, much of the non-musical elements of Beyond the Lights lack this same sense of flair, and often border on soap opera-y. There are too many films that have explored romance between characters of differing levels of fame and notoriety, (Notting Hill and Music and Lyrics immediately come to mind), and the script does not help by having Noni being far more interesting, with her under the microscope pop career, micromanaging momager (Minnie Driver), and her look, although each factor contribute to her unhappiness, which seems unfair.
In contrast to Noni’s excitement, there is Kaz, and the character is something of a wash-out, and the film seems to lose momentum when Noni is out of the spotlight, and tries to become something beyond a fairly capable romantic vehicle.