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"Talk To Me": They Call Him Mr. Cheadle

By admin Published: July 11, 2007

Don Cheadle remains an amazing actor in "Talk To Me," the movie "inspired by" the life of Washington, D.C., broadcasting star Petey Greene, with Cheadle as Greene. But beyond that performance is a powerful rumination on race -- not black vs. white, but black vs. black ...

As told by the movie (with some biographical liberties): Greene, an ex-con and ex-junkie, is the spokesman for D.C.'s poor and disenfranchised, someone who knows the underclass because he is unabashedly a part of it even when he has more money in his pocket. But his success depends a great deal on Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who seems to be as assimilated as Petey is his own man; early in the movie, Petey repeatedly jabs Dewey as a knockoff Sidney Poitier.

They come to an accommodation, but the movie repeatedly asks questions about their respective choices of ways to success, as well as their way of living. The pivotal moment comes when Petey gets a chance to go on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" -- a dream for Dewey, which Petey must fulfill.

But the movie is smart enough not to make either path unambiguous. Dewey may not speak as forthrightly as Petey, but he is the smarter businessman, and he helps make Petey far more than another voice on the radio. Petey is a remarkable voice, but he still has a knack for failure -- for too much booze, too many women, for -- in one of the movie's metaphors -- not sinking the nine-ball.

So I'd have sat through this movie at some point because it has Cheadle. But I'll keep thinking about it because of what is built under and around that performance.

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