It’s not the struggle that keeps you down, but believing it’s all life has to offer.
His first name is Mister (Skylan Brooks, Seven Pounds), a thirteen-year-old movie-loving boy with big dreams of becoming a famous actor. But Mister has quite the uphill battle; he lives in a New York tenement with his drug dependent mother Gloria (Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls), who works as a prostitute in order to feed her addiction. When Gloria is arrested, she leaves Mister with nine-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon), the son of a fellow working girl left in Gloria’s care. Alone and with no money or food, the two friends work together to survive in the apartment, and avoid being caught by a tenacious police officer determined to make the boys wards of the state.
I loved The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete — a lot! There, the suspense is over, but continue on and I’ll explain, dear reader, why you should see this film.
Lionsgate doomed this film before it ever got off the ground, by releasing it in a limited number of theaters in October of 2013, where it floundered in the hubbub of the impending holiday movies and was summarily forgotten. And that’s unfortunate, because this is a film that should’ve been seen by the masses, as well as a contender for Oscar consideration. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a story of survival and friendship in the most tenuous of circumstances. The thesis of the film is stated with heartwarming clarity in a scene near the end when Mister feels like giving up after three months of living in his mother’s abandoned apartment. Tired and discouraged, he tells a police officer, “I can’t do it alone.” And the officer replies, “None of us can.”
Truer statements have rarely been spoken. We can’t succeed alone, and it’s a lesson that Mister, Pete, and Gloria learn the hard way. Mister would’ve been hard pressed to be so successful without Pete to keep him focused, and vice versa. Both Mister and Gloria, played fabulously by American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson, are too proud to accept help from anyone. While she keeps promising Mister that she’ll kick her habit and change her life, Gloria never bothers to ask for the help she needs. When Mister is at the end of his rope, he’s befriended by a former neighbor, Alice, played by another Idol alum: Jordin Sparks, Sparkle). After she finds him living alone with Pete, she offers to help, but like his mother, Mister doesn’t want to be anyone’s pet project.
Both boys are abandoned by mothers who choose prostitution and drugs over their children. However, even with the odds very much against them, Mister refuses to let their circumstances break their spirit, and it’s infectious as Pete too begins to believe that they just might make it. But as time passes, and it appears Gloria isn’t going to return, Mister begins to lose faith. And this takes us back to the films’ thesis: Mister can’t do it alone because he is a child who needs a parent to guide him, and Gloria can’t get off the drugs without the help of professionals to give her the tools to succeed. The responsibility is much too great for them both, and until mom and son are willing to accept help, their struggles will continue to be insurmountable.
Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor), written by Michael Starrbury, and co-produced by R&B singer Alicia Keys, who also performs on the movie soundtrack along with Mark Isham, this little known film is a gem that is well worth your time. It has an engaging story, with wonderful performances by all involved — particularly the young maestro (I like that word) Skylan Brooks. This young man should have quite a future in the movie industry, something his character dearly longed for.
The 2.35:1 widescreen Presentation of The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a beautifully shot film that shows in full color the grittiness of living on the fringes in the city that never sleeps. The Dolby 5.1 audio is crisp and clear, making for dialogue that is easy to hear. Extras include a Digital copy of the film; deleted scenes, some I wish could’ve been added to make this a wonderful film even better; two scenes shown from rehearsal to the screen; and two short featurettes. I wish there were more in the way of cast and crew interviews, regardless, the special features are still quite entertaining.
I enjoyed The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete far more than I had anticipated. This film is a display of what can be done when good writing, directing and acting are brought together in a cohesive story that is capable of reaching audiences of any social class.
Here’s the inevitable verdict: Not Guilty.