Lackawanna Blues

Lackawanna Blues

4.3 3
Director: George C. Wolfe

Cast: George C. Wolfe, S. Epatha Merkerson, Julie Benz, Robert A. Bradley

     
 

A young boy grows up among a makeshift family of oddballs and dreamers in this adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's acclaimed one-man show. Ruben Junior (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a young boy who was born in the late '40s into a family that started crumbling not long after he was born. Ruben Junior's parents were from Lackawanna, a city in Upstate New York, and were… See more details below

Overview

A young boy grows up among a makeshift family of oddballs and dreamers in this adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's acclaimed one-man show. Ruben Junior (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a young boy who was born in the late '40s into a family that started crumbling not long after he was born. Ruben Junior's parents were from Lackawanna, a city in Upstate New York, and were living in a rooming house run by Nanny Crosby (S. Epatha Merkerson), whose place was a hub for the local African-American community. When Ruben Junior's parents split up, he and his mother return to Lackawanna and Nanny's rooming house; with mother overworked physically and in sad shape emotionally, Nanny takes Ruben Junior under her wing, and offers him the sort of nurturing she gives all her boarders. Nanny's house is full of people struggling for a fresh start in life, ranging from former convicts to recovering drug addicts, and she opens both her doors and her heart to them as they strive to make themselves better people. Ruben Junior finds a loving home amidst the colorful eccentrics in Nanny's circle of friends, but as America changes over the course of the 1950s and '60s, so does the neighborhood where Nanny and her tenants live -- and not for the better. Produced for the premium cable network HBO, Lackawanna Blues features a stellar supporting cast, including Delroy Lindo, Louis Gossett Jr., Rosie Perez, Jimmy Smits, Jeffrey Wright, Mos Def, and Ernie Hudson.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Over the years, HBO has been the proud home to numerous films with powerful African-American storylines, which would have otherwise had difficulty reaching a wide audience. Lackawanna Blues, a film about a similar safe harbor for people, is one of the finest examples of that tradition. Ruben Santiago-Hudson adapts his own autobiographical one-man show in glorious fashion, making a big departure from the stage version by featuring a multiplicity of characters, but using them perfectly as flavor, rather than burdening each with a subplot. The actor-playwright himself essays one of these minor roles. Even though it's technically Santiago-Hudson's own story, the spirit of Lackawanna Blues belongs to his caretaker, nicknamed Nanny, whose home serves as a waystation for lives that have gotten off track, and to whom this film is dedicated. As Nanny, S. Epatha Merkerson proves she's one of the most underappreciated actors working today. There's a familiar divine goodness to her character, to be sure, but Merkerson won't settle for any token portrayal of African-American saintliness. Her every gesture is felt truly, whether she's laughing, spitting fire, or just letting an emotion creep slowly across her face. And the deceptive subtlety of her work reveals itself in the rare moments when she does let down that guard of stoical selflessness. Giving Lackawanna Blues that extra potency, the strong performances (by a who's who of contemporary black actors) are punctuated by sharp storytelling techniques. In particular, director George C. Wolfe uses the soundtrack's bounty of rhythmic instruments to punctuate his vignettes, both the stories told to young Ruben and the episodes in which he participates. The sum total is a nostalgic salute to a bygone era of communal living, where if not everything was perfect, at least it was full of vibrancy, personality, and personalities.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/23/2005
UPC:
0026359274923
Original Release:
2005
Rating:
TV14
Source:
Hbo Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
1:35:00
Sales rank:
10,646

Special Features

Closed Caption; "Lackawanna Blues" Featurette; Deleted scene; Audio commentary with director George C. Wolfe and Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
S. Epatha Merkerson Rachel 'Nanny' Crosby
Julie Benz Laura
Robert A. Bradley Otis McClanahan
Thomas Jefferson Byrd Numb Finger Pete
Kathleen Chalfant Mrs. Carmichael
Carmen Ejogo Alean
Marcus Carl Franklin Ruben Santiago, Jr. (as a boy)
Louis Gossett Old Lem Taylor
Macy Gray Pauline
Hill Harper Ruben Santiago, Jr. (as adult)
Barry "Shabaka" Henley Shakey Winfield
Terrence Howard Bill Crosby
Terrence Dashon Howard Bill Crosby
Ernie Hudson Dick Barrymore
Delroy Lindo Mr. Lucious
Mos Def The Bandleader
Lou Myers Ol' Po' Carl
Rosie Perez Bertha
Adina Porter Ricky
Ruben Santiago-Hudson Freddie Cobbs
Liev Schreiber Ulyses Fold
Henry Simmons Jesse
Jimmy Smits Ruben Santiago, Sr.
Patricia Wettig Laura's Mom
Michael Kenneth Williams Jimmy Lee
Saul Williams Sweet Tooth Sam
Charlayne Woodard Miss Jadie
Jeffrey Wright Small Paul

Technical Credits
George C. Wolfe Director
Halle Berry Executive Producer
Vincent Cirrincione Executive Producer
Richard Hoover Production Designer
Brian A. Kates Editor
Evyen Klean Musical Direction/Supervision
Me'Shell NdegéOcello Score Composer
Nellie Nugiel Producer
John Papsidera Casting
Ruben Santiago-Hudson Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Shelby Stone Executive Producer
Ivan Strasburg Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Lackawanna Blues
1. Born at the Fish Fry [11:46]
2. Taking Care of Junior [9:03]
3. Mama Leaves [6:02]
4. 32 Wesson Avenue [9:01]
5. Put on Your Red Dress [16:00]
6. The Fishing Trip [8:52]
7. Social Work [4:53]
8. Nanny's Story [9:46]
9. Down the Road [9:15]
10. Credits [5:50]

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