Published Jul 26, 2007Talk To Me begins with the same old promise of a fresh (albeit smoky) new voice with vitality ready to shake up the establishment but ends up suffocated under the same old biopic conventions of the Hollywood establishment, remaining as lifeless as the deceased man it chooses to honour.
Don Cheadle deserves credit for his predictably admirable turn as the late 60s Washington, DC shock jock Petey Greene the black Howard Stern before there even was a Howard Stern. After building a repertoire in the joint as a felon with some not so common on air skills, Petey uses his abrasive and unorthodox manner to hijack the attentions of the reluctant Dewey Hughes, a programming director at a flat lining AM radio station in desperate need of resuscitation.
Played by the under-appreciated Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things), Dewey hails from the same kind of projects that made Petey a roughneck in pimp gear. Yet Deweys drive to be like Johnny Carson helped him mould a new life amongst the white collars, and also the butt of Peteys "Sidney Poitier cracks. The fiery collaboration between these two becomes both the talk of the town and the sole entertainment of the film, as Petey soon becomes an icon that speaks to, and for, the people, which is fine except for the fact that we never truly see these people he speaks for.
For all of Peteys on air shucking and jiving, the film refuses to bare witness to the projects that chiselled the characters critically hard edge (even his hard time in prison seems rather quaint). The harsh reality that is frequently referred to never quite permeates the films feel good nature, instead relying on Peteys dress, manner and frequent use of the n-word as the sole ghetto content of this neatly pre-packaged biopic.
And while the actors do their part to honour Peteys iconoclast, maverick spirit, the film becomes too conventional to follow suit. The unfortunate thing about Talk To Me is that we keep hearing the same old jive and never quite see anything new. (Alliance Atlantis)