Directed in the mid-90s when drugs and violence were rampant on New York streets, Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical Crooklyn is a slice-of-life story that looks back on a brighter time for the City. Bathed in cinematographer Arthur Jafa’s densely saturated palette of colors, 1973 Brooklyn is a place of crowded middle class homes, street culture and unique neighborhood dynamics that might be the perfect escape for families also in close quarters this summer.
Inspired by his upbringing in a Bed-Sty brownstone, with a musician father (composer and bass player Bill Lee) and a school teacher mom, Crooklyn was co-written by Lee with brother Cinqué and sister Joie. Likely a tribute to Joie (an actress in several of the director’s films), the story is driven by nine-year-old Troy - the family’s only girl.
Sibling rivalries and arguments over bills certainly feel authentic on a universal level, but an antipathy for black-eyed peas and an obsession over a Knicks game seems particularly true to the filmmaker’s own heart. While Lee’s ever pugnacious touch here appears slightly softened by a whim of nostalgia.
The magic of Crooklyn is also in its rich score, which combines original music by Lee's longtime collaborator Terence Blanchard with 70s staples James Brown, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Sly and the Family Stone, and Smokey Robinson. Audiences will note Lee’s cameo as glue huffer “Snuffy” who terrorizes the neighborhood children.
Crooklyn can be watched on several platforms. Among them: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube.