Having ascended to genre supremacy, the biopic has long since reached its imaginative low—so much so that the banality of Talk To Me is only half disappointing; at least it babbles clichés with conviction. Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) from a screenplay by Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa, this earnest, ineffectual history lesson stars Don Cheadle as Ralph Waldo “Petey” Green, an ex-con turned Washington, D.C., radio phenomenon who electrified Chocolate City in the 1960s with his streetwise populism. Chiwetel Ejiofor co-stars as Dewey Hughes, a sympathetic producer at the complacent soul station WOL-AM; Martin Sheen appears as The Man. Textured by ego trips, boozing, red velvet tuxedos, and a soundtrack jammed with rousing, if predictable hits of the era, Talk To Me lacks every kind of specificity (historical, psychological, socio-cultural) but redeems itself through the dedication of its Cheadlicious lead. As in the overrated Hotel Rwanda, Cheadle is a live wire in dead air, shimmering with vitality—and silk paisley blouses—against his oppressively formulaic context.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2007