'The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete' Review: Amazing Performances Deliver A Heartbreaking Story Of Two Boys Struggling To Survive
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a moving film that boasts not one, but two American Idol vets in its cast: Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks both have small, but important parts in the film. However, big names or not, the film belongs to Skylan Brooks, the young actor who plays Mister, a 12-year-old boy living with his drug addicted mother, Gloria (Hudson), in the Brooklyn projects. When Gloria, a hooker, and her co-worker get arrested Mister and Pete (Ethan Dizon), the Korean son of Gloria’s fellow prostitute, spend a summer hiding out, running from Child Protective Services and struggling to find food to survive alone in the city.
Brooks is nothing short of fantastic in his portrayal of Mister, an aspiring actor, who dreams of being discovered at a talent call in August and moving to Beverly Hills. Though he may be failing classes and sporting a reckless attitude needed to survive in his neighborhood, Mister is sharp, smart and vulnerable. His favorite film is Fargo; he knows the whole movie by heart. Mister is simultaneously wise beyond his years and as helpless as any 12-year-old would be in his situation. He doesn’t know how to pay for food, how to ask for help or how to take care of himself and look after Pete at the same time. All he wants is to survive, but, as stated in the title, he knows that its inevitable that his independent life will come to an end, the cops will catch him and he will be sent to the dreaded group home.
Brooks plays Mister with a sensitivity that is rarely seen in child actors, and Dizon is equally adept of a performer. Director George Tillman Jr., whose previous credits include Faster (2010) and Notorious (2009), succeeds in getting excellent performances from his actors, but falls short when it comes to framing scenes in a way that increases the emotion instead of diminishing it. The camera angles and editing were often distracting and I just couldn’t help but watch certain scenes and think that it would have been much better had the camera been better utilized. The screenplay, by Michael Starrbury, is touching and very smart. Starrbury manages to convey Mister and Pete’s miserable, and almost hopeless, situation without parading their misfortune around for the audience. It’s a refreshingly innocent take on a horrible reality – poverty, abandonment, violence all seen through a child’s perspective.
While touching, the film does have certain moments of cliché and suffers from instances of forcing the plot points onto the audience. For example, during a big confrontation scene between Mister and his mother, Mister literally tells her, and the audience, what is at stake for him should she get arrested or die: he could be sent to the "worst" group home in New York City. The one Mister and Pete just confirmed was dangerous and undesirable in the previous scene.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete also features an appearance by Anthony Mackie as Kris, the pimp/drug dealer who runs their block and used to employ Mister’s mom. Mackie, sporting what could be the most awful beard in history, manages to be both threatening and inviting at the same time, much like the film itself.