Being home alone takes a toll for ‘Mister & Pete’
By BILL STAMETS For Sun-Times Media October 15, 2013 5:28PM
Resourceful 13-year-old Mister (Skylan Brooks) confronts his irresponsible mother (Jennifer Hudson) in “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete."
‘THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT
OF MISTER & PETE’ ★★1⁄2
Mister Skylan Brooks
Pete Ethan Dizon
Alice Jordin Sparks
Gloria Jennifer Hudson
Codeblack Films presents a film directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Michael Starrbury. Running time: 108 minutes. Rated R (for language, some drug use and sexual content). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: October 15, 2013 5:32PM
Two abandoned sons of addicts bond in “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete,” the new film from Columbia College grad George Tillman Jr. In an appealing affirmation of loyalty, 13-year-old Mister (Skylan Brooks) and 9-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon) persevere by their wits, without parental supervision or intervention by social workers.
Tillman and screenwriter Michael Starrbury, who share youthful ties to a Milwaukee housing project, set their story in Brooklyn, where they shot at Ingersoll Houses. Their focus is less on systemic crises of the inner city than the dreams of kids to get a better deal.
The opening scene shows Pete getting an F on the last day of school. Repeating eighth grade is inevitable. In the last scene, set on the first day of the new school year, he turns in his essay on how he spent his summer. His title is the film’s title.
In light of his attempt to audition for a television show that would take him to Beverly Hills — he memorizes a monologue from “Fargo”— you might expect him to draft an autobiographical screenplay.
The mothers of African-American Mister and Korean-American Pete work for the same dealer/pimp. Before her arrest and disappearance after release, Mister’s mom Gloria (Jennifer Hudson) was looking after Pete. Mister takes on the chore, which turns into a three-month commitment.
Stylistically, this saga of survival never aims for urban neo-realism. Yet, as sentimental humanism, it shows laudable taste in dodging the usual indulgent touches and turns when lost kids find their way. Most poignant is how “defeat” in the title means capture and detention by Child Services.
“Mister & Pete” will screen at 6 p.m. Friday as part of the Chicago International Film Festival’s sold-out Black Perspectives Tribute at AMC River East, where Tillman will receive a career achievement award. Hudson and the director are scheduled to walk the red carpet.
Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.