With a running time of 54 minutes, Donald Glover’s new film “Guava Island” has the look and feel of the 1959 Oscar winner, “Black Orpheus,” only the setting is not Carnivale in Brazil, but the day of a music festival on a fictional locale – as named in the film's title.
Glover plays “Deni," a young man who has two jobs; a factory worker and a musician who performs live advertisements on the island’s radio station. Music and “Kofi“ (Rihanna) are Deni’s loves-- and in defiance of the island’s lone business mogul (played by Brit actor, Nonso Anozie) - he ignores his demand to cancel a music festival, which would cause his employees to miss work the following day.
The team behind the Emmy winning TV series “Atlanta” has produced an entertaining film that highlights the many talents of Donald Glover, and yet it feels incomplete. (It could have benefited from at least one actual musical performance by Rihanna.)
The opening is animated and gives us the backstory of Deni and Kofi --and the socio-economic disparity that keeps the working class in constant hustle mode. Using this visual choice quickly glosses over and lessens the impact that audiences could have experienced by seeing the struggles of the Guava Island residents.
I would not be surprised if someday Donald (and Stephen) Glover will expand “Guava Island” on the Broadway stage-- and it just might garner him a Tony Award or two.
Vera J. Brooks