US Release Date: 10-11-2013
Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
- Skylan Brooks, as
- Ethan Dizon, as
- Anthony Mackie, as
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as
- Sergeant Pike
- Jennifer Hudson, as
- Gloria, Mister's Mom
- Jordin Sparks, as
- Jeffrey Wright, as
- Kenneth Maharaj, as
- Store Owner
- Julito McCullum, as
- Dip Stick
- Joseph Adams, as
- Mr. Carey
- Kate Buddeke, as
- Neighbor Lady
- Kate Geller, as
- Rege Lewis, as
- Martha Millan as
- Pete's Mom
Ethan Dizon and Skylan Brooks in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.
The laboriously titled The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete tells the story of the two titular boys living in the Brooklyn projects. Mister is about to start high school and Pete is nine. Both boys have worthless mothers and absent fathers. When Mister's junkie/prostitute mom gets arrested he and Pete hide out until the police leave. Their biggest fear is being institutionalized. They then spend the summer fending for themselves on the mean city streets while avoiding the authorities (Pete's mom is also a drug addict/whore who leaves her son completely unsupervised).
Mister is an intelligent, outwardly confident young man. He's ashamed of his mother and tries his best to help her by circling ads in the Help Wanted section of the paper he thinks his mother can do to earn a respectable living. Academy Award winner, and American Idol alumni, Jennifer Hudson plays Mister's mother. She does a decent job at playing such a screwed up character. In one disturbing scene she shoots up in front of her son and then takes Mister and Pete out to dinner where she winds up giving a blow job to a stranger in the men's room to pay for it. Mister even walks in on her doing the dirty deed and makes a scene in the restaurant.
American Idol winner Jordin Sparks plays Alice, a young woman that Mister has a crush on. She used to live in his building but has since moved to a better neighborhood. The only time we see Pete's mom is when Mister and Pete are given a ride by Alice. While stopped at a red light they see a woman loudly arguing with her pimp on the street corner. Alice asks if they know the woman and at first Mister starts to say, “Yeah that's Pete's mom.” but he glances in the back seat and sees Pete crying so instead he tells Alice that he doesn't know the woman. You cannot help but feel for these two young kids who've both been dealt such a shitty hand in life.
Mister dreams of being an actor. He has memorized speeches from movies like Trading Places and Fargo. His love for movies made before he was born reminded me of myself and my brothers when we were his age. He is excited about an upcoming audition for a show in Beverly Hills and dreams of moving to California and becoming famous. Pete is quiet and lacking in street smarts. Watching these two young innocents survive against horrendous odds makes for an emotionally powerful film.
Ethan Dizon is quite good as Pete, but Skylan Brooks as Mister is the real find. He's a natural in front of the camera and effortlessly carries nearly every scene in the movie. He displays a winning combination of toughness and vulnerability. At first Mister thinks of Pete as an annoyance but over the course of the summer they become very close. Mister even includes Pete in his fantasy of moving to Beverly Hills.
Director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor, Notorious) tells his story in a straightforward manner without any unnecessary flourishes. The script by Michael Starrbury occasionally spills over into pure melodrama. Just about everything that can go wrong for these boys does. Mister has an ongoing argument with a local store owner that seems a bit contrived, as does the neighbor lady that tries to molest Pete. Jeffrey Wright shows up intermittently as a homeless man that Mister argues with before eventually bonding with him.
Despite all these travails, and the title of the movie, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete contains a happy ending; although it seems a little too convenient. But then again, after everything they've been through it comes as a welcome relief. If ever two characters in a movie deserve a happy ending it is Mister and Pete.
Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.
I too found this story to be a bit contrived as we are forced to feel sorry for Mister and Pete and their endless amount of hardships. Although I found some of the performances less than stellar and the plot too paint-by-number, there is a worthwhile story here, no matter how unoriginal.
I laughed at a couple of unintentionally funny scenes. After Pete sees a guy steal some candy, Mister explains to him in serious fashion, “People do what they have to, to survive out here.” Candy equals surviving? When Mister’s mom dramatically states to Mister, “I do what I do cause ain’t nobody gonna help me. They never have. They never will.” So she does not see her free government housing and welfare card as help?
Speaking of Jennifer Hudson, she is not a great actress. She simply reads her lines and tries to have an attitude by leaving her mouth open. I know she won an Oscar but that win had more to do with one song than anything else. The only thing that makes her look like a decent actress is Jordin Sparks, who should feel lucky to be cast in a high school play, let alone a theatrical film. Apparently, it took their names to get this film financed but they by no means bring anything beyond their fame to the proceedings.
The story of boys fending for themselves goes back to Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies and even Home Alone. The most original idea here is that Mister and Pete are friends because both of their mothers share the same pimp. Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon do some good work as abused children who find that they need each other. The scene where Mister and Pete reveal to each other their literal and emotional scars is quite touching.
As long as the film focused on the boys, it was an interesting watch. The movie should have begun with Mister’s mother being taken away. We never get more than a glance at Pete’s mother and we fully understand his situation. It is a bit ironic that the people who were able to get the film off the ground are the worst parts of it.
Jennifer Hudson in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete.
I'll admit I sat down to watch this movie with little expectations. Neither of my brothers' reviews left me anxious to watch it. Perhaps it was partly due to these lowered expectations, but I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. As a coming of age story that takes place over the course of one summer, this story has been told many times before, but the urban, government housing setting does lend it a new perspective. That and sincere performances by its young leads helps refresh the genre.
I disagree with Eric's statement about the unintentionally funny scenes. Pete's reaction to Mister's statement about doing what it takes to survive, seems clearly intentionally funny. And Mister's mom's statements about doing what she does are obviously meant to be hollow. She's a drug addicted hooker who neglects her son. She's not being held up as role model or someone who has made good life choices. She tries to paint herself as a victim, but the film isn't saying she is one.
Certain elements of the story do seem rather neat and Hollywoodized. I could have done without Jeffrey Wright's homeless character. At least as written anyway. The ending provides a sense of hope, but it's a measure of how bad these kids' lives are that it's considered a happy one. Considering their home lives, I'm not entirely convinced they wouldn't have been better off staying in government care.
Hudson and Sparks might not be the greatest actresses, but they're not nearly as bad as Eric labels them. Sparks is the worse of the two, but she's adequate enough. I do agree though that the film is at its best when it focuses on the two boys, both of whom do a great job. Skylan Brooks in particular, as Patrick wrote, is terrific as Mister. Perhaps what's best about their performances and the script is that they always feel like children. Too often in Hollywood movies, children and teens are portrayed as wise beyond their years or too mature, but Mister and Pete's reactions to their situation remain that of children and their thoughts almost never stray beyond their immediate circumstances.
It's always a pleasure when a movie surprises you by being more enjoyable than you anticipated as this one was for me. Horrible title though.
Photos © Copyright Lionsgate (2013)