Carlos Lopez Estrada's superb and daring street-level city-study Blindspotting dashes to the rocks the established rules of genre and dramatic naturalism. A thrilling, riotous, language-drunk elegy and celebration of Oakland, California, that most unfixed of cities, Blindspotting is forever evolving, always becoming some new thing just when it at last seems to have revealed its full self.
It takes a lot of movie to get at Oakland's truth. Blindspotting is, among other things, a tender and hilarious character study of two neighborhood friends -- played by the film's writers and producers, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal -- who work for a moving company, try not to run afoul of the law, have strikingly different reactions to gentrification and process everything bewildering or beautiful or upsetting in their lives by spitting casual, exploratory rhymes toward each other. And it's a piercing melodrama about race and class, identity and expectations, about what the world sees and expects when it looks at you, about how hard it is, when you've been raised in this culture and steeped in its pathologies, to see people as who they are rather than who you expect or fear. It's also an impassioned city symphony that toasts and laments an Oakland that's already passing, alive with blazing street photography and attuned in its incidental encounters to contradiction and irony. And, to bull's-eye Oakland reality, the filmmakers sometimes break with blinkered and limited movie realism, offering elaborate dream and performance sequences that feature the leads soliloquizing in ferocious verse. Blindspotting brilliantly surveys its creators' home turf while also breaking new ground.