|Image by Paul C Lee from Pixabay|
Melina Matsoukas' Queen & Slim has received mixed reviews from critics. Most of the criticism circulating around praises the style and look of the film and the reverence the camera bestows upon black community. Conversely, reviewers feel less complimentary about the overall message of the film and feel like it's too much emotion and not enough logic. I won't comment upon how race is handled in this film because there are others who are better informed (Angelica Bastien) and equipped (Kolby Mac) to write such a post. But I did want to touch on some points I haven't heard anyone talk about yet: the perils of online dating and how the couple's bad Tinder date ends up in a ride or die love.
A brief summary for those who are unfamiliar with the movie: Queen & Slim meet for dinner at a "black owned" establishment for dinner. They don't seem to have much in common. On the drive home, a white police officer pulls over their car because of "erratic driving." The situation escalates until Queen is shot in the leg and Slim makes a choice to shoot the police officer in self-defense. Knowing they won't get a fair trial, the couple make a decision to flee the scene and hide out until they come up a good plan. What follows is a road movie and love story, where the couple comes across different people who either try to help them or hurt them on their journey. As their trip continues, they get to know each other and begin a true romance.
Today the forecast for online dating seems bleak, and when Queen & Slim opens, we see a date going downhill fast. He is in some ways a very simple man, while she is quite a complicated woman. He has a solid faith and connection to family. He comes to the date open to getting to know someone and falling in love. He asks her questions to get to know each other, and she scoffs at his every attempt. She sneers, "Do you really like this place, or is it all you can afford?" She looks for fault and a reason to reject. On the drive home, he says, "So what happens tonight?" Assuming he's expecting sex, she belittles him, but he just suggests they get to know one another. And she cuts him off: "I'm good."
In short, Slim comes across as open to love and connection, while Queen stays aloof and ready to be let down. She has good reason, as is revealed later in the movie, but she wants to remain unattached because it seems safer than forming a connection that may hurt her later on. It's not until the couple goes on the run together that they get to know one another. Because they are stuck with one another, Queen talks to him and shares her secrets. Through forced interaction, they form intimacy over time.
Later on, in voice overs, they share what they want out of romance. He says, "I just want someone to love me," while she has a much higher demand: "I want a guy to show me myself." Queen hasn't taken care of her own pain. Instead, she expects an acceptable mate to help heal her and make her whole. It's not enough to be a companion or helpmate; rather, her dreamboat has to help her learn who she is at the core.
Why am I making an issue out of this? Well, Melina Matsoukas' has captured a very real problem in Western culture today and put it into a wrapper of both a road movie and the black American experience. When people set out for online dating, they often have unrealistic expectations of what their dream date will do for them. Queen is the perfect representative of how most people approach dating today. They either set up stumbling blocks for a potential romance or have unrealistic expectations. This person will heal them or make them whole. When, in fact, the best thing you can do for your idea partner is to take the time to face your own demons and take responsibility for your own healing. No, it's not your fault you were treated in certain ways, but it's not your love's fault either. Why punish someone else for the things you never received?
After the interaction with the police office Queen calls the shots. She tells Slim they are going to flee and go to her uncle's place in New Orleans. She questions any decision he makes. Finally, Slim announces, "I'm making a unilateral decision," deciding they will try for Cuba. She scoffs at him initially, but up until this point, she has been making many unilateral decisions and he has gone along with them. It's not until he picks up the leader role and starts calling the shots that she begins to listen to him and let her guard down.
When she opens herself up to love, she falls for Slim quite easily.
When the film focuses on the couple and their journey of falling in love, it's quite lovely and mezmerizing. I also enjoyed Queen's complicated relationship with Uncle Earl and learning more about her background.