Indelible performances by two young actors, and a script that avoids cliché make “The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister and Pete” a MUST SEE picture.
Sylvan Brooks has played small parts in several films (“Our Family Wedding” (2010),”Seven Pounds” (2008) and “Noobz” (2012) before his break out role as Mister, the latch key kid and reluctant protector of young Pete, played by Korean TV kid actor Etan Dizan.
George Tillman Jr. (“Soul Food,” “Men Of Honor”) directs perfect pitch performances from his strong cast. Michael Starrbury’s emotional script has no truck with sentimentality, and the clear-eyed performances of the two sturdy little actors mines the subtext. If you ever wanted an illustration of the Japanese term for cute (Kawaii) Young Etan Dizan is it.
Jennifer Hudson is affecting as Gloria, the addict whore, who makes extra money “watching” Pete in the afternoons. (Actually, that’s Mister’s job.)
Julito McCullum as bad face local robber Dip Stick, Jeffrey Wright as Henry, a homeless-Vet panhandler and Jordin Sparks as a helpful former neighbor (Alice) disappear into their role, peppering the kid-driven story with memorable moments. Martha Millan plays Pete’s wretched addicted mother.
(Joseph Adams plays Mister’s avuncular eighth grade teacher Mr. Carey, who gives him a failing grade and is happily rewarded by gifted Mister’s comeback.
The two boys share a common plight, their drug-addicted mothers whore for the ruthless local dealer and pimp Kris (Anthony Mackie).
When a raid on the Brooklyn projects where the two families live nab Mister’s mom, the pair are forced to survive on their wits. Warned by a local that they will end up in a feared Family Services orphanage, the two escape a police round up, and successfully dodge the persistent local cop (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) for most of the film.
When they run out of food, they begin stealing food, first at local shops, then in their building. They live feral in Mister’s apartment until the utilities are turned off.
What keeps them going is Mister’s preparation for a local casting for a Beverly Hills Sit com. Mister is great in his Dan Aykroyd monologue from “Trading Places”. Starrbury’s conceived the would-be actor as a gifted, knowledgeable film buff, and perhaps a proxy for the filmmakers behind the camera.
Executive produced by Alicia Keyes, who created original music for the soundtrack, the character driven piece was shot in 25 days and a miniscule budget.