Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 12, No. 4, 2013
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
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Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Serge Gamache
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  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave
Le Havre
Presumed Guilty
A Separation
Take This Waltz
Beyond The Walls
The Place Beyond the Pines

laura brownson & beth levison's

reviewed by


Laura Brownson and Beth Levison's remarkable biopic is presented by the star beat poet himself -- Andrew Andersen -- AKA Lemon. He's an ex-con who discovered poetry while at Rikers. Coming from the projects in Brooklyn, his childhood days were disastrous and they followed him right into adulthood. He and his brother Peter became small-time drug pushers for the building they lived in. His mother Mille was a heroin addict. She dies of AIDS. A lot of his poetry is about her and their mutual love. As a kid from Puerto Rico, he stuck out with his blond hair and so Lemon became his name. Peter and his wife figure in the film as major influences -- the former not initially positive, but that changes at the end of the film.

The story centers around Lemon's steely drive to become a very successful poet. He starts out performing in schools, but mid-way he raises the bar by connecting with a small American theatre company. After some performances in this company, he is swooped up by American Public Theatre's Under the Radar festival. Richard Kerner, who ran the smaller theatre where Lemon first began performing, is dropped; the American Public Theatre wants to own all the production rights. Kerner is naturally disappointed, but begrudgingly releases Lemon from their small contract. Later on in the film Lemon returns to Kerner asking for funds.

The relationship between Kerner and Lemon is the major focus of the film. Kerner truly kick started Lemon’s career and got him his audience. He treats Lemon like a brother, so when Lemon leaves him high and dry and then goes back to him to ask for money without eating humble pie (that is not in Lemon’s character), Kerner said it well, expressing the sentiment that he felt like Lemon was coming back to the lover he had dumped. Kerner gives him nothing. It was very difficult for Kerner to let his brainchild go and receive no credit for his perosnal and financial investment in lemon. It was a bitter- sweet moment, for on the one hand, Kerner is angry, and on the other, Lemon is happy to be moving up the ladder in the performance world of New York City. In defense of Lemon, the poet makes a key point -- that all his life he catered to others above him, and was a 'yes' boy. For the first time in his life, he wants to pursue what he wants, even if it means breaking the bond of a deep friendship.

That scene is very telling of Lemon's great ambition and his determination to go to higher places even if it means betraying the one who gave him his first start. There was a reason why Lemon approached Kerner. Although his Under the Radar stint was successful, the American Public Theatre lacks funds to support Lemon's mainstay run of County Kings -- the name of his show. He is told he must raise $50,000 if he wants to continue his run. Despite rave reviews of his work from his two-week stint in Under the Radar, he can't get the money. He ends up unemployed, taking care of his two daughters while his highly supportive wife earns the money. One day, Spike Lee, without whose support the award winning musical Passing Strange would have never made it to the silver screen, calls out to him just as Lemon is leaving a restaurant. He had seen Lemon's performance, and offers to put up the money Lemon needs to continue the show indefinitely at the American Public Theatre. Lemon's poetry is tough, defiant and extremely passionate. He is gifted and utterly disciplined.

Throughout the film, Lemon presents his compelling poetry. He also offers poignant views on poverty, power tycoons, resilience and what it takes to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve success and endure. Interestingly, he has a problem after he gets his main run. He hyperventilates all the time on stage. He knows he needs his wife with him during his performances. She quits her job to be with him. She is the sweet cherry that sweetens up Lemon's life. Nothing made him crack during all the tough times -- just the lack of her presence. I found that rather touching.



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