Great dramatic love stories with engaging leads of color are not always a quick sell in Hollywood, but they should be. After seeing Gina Prince Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights today, might I suggest she be the go to writer/director if you want to tell this kind of tale right. After impressing the hell out of critics and audiences with Love and Basketball, she followed up that film with The Secret Life of Bees, and now the wonderful Beyond the Lights, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw of Belle fame and Nate Parker who some say is the second coming of Denzel Washington. Beyond the Lights has already been compared to the mega hits The Bodyguard and Mahogany, but it definitely can stand on its own. The story of Noni a pop star with an overt sexual image who just wants to sing and Kaz, the cop who saves her from a suicide attempt gets everything right from jump, and it doesn’t waste time getting the love story in motion. The way Bythewood uses a flashback to set up the trajectory of a biracial child with an amazing voice who is virtually pushed into the limelight by a mother whose thirst for fame and riches outweighs thoughts of what's best for her daughter, lets the movie goer in as to how modern day Noni eventually winds up in the place of despair Kaz finds her in.
As a screenwriter, I studied the pace of the script and can honestly say the other reason for my going to see this film was not only to be entertained, but to also adopt some of the methods that makes Gina’s films work so damn well. It’s not easy being a writer and revising a script can be tedious, but after learning Gina goes through over 50 rewrites , you won’t hear any more complaints from me. If Beyond the Lights' many revisions resulted in what I saw today, then as one of the audience members that applauded the film as the credits rolled, Bythewood’s revisions netted the result she was looking for.