This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
JayQ’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
When a story is told long enough, it might just become true.
The story Nia DaCosta's Candyman is concerned with starts forming early. White police trolling around the Cabrini-Green projects hold up a wanted poster depicting the cartoonishly exaggerated face of a screaming Black man. Assumptions about the story are already being made, shaping Sherman Fields - who in reality is an innocent disabled resident of the projects - into an "Angry Black Man." When those same profiling police beat Sherman to death, the story they had been peddling proliferates, distracting from accounts of their condemnable actions. One story lives, another dies, a fiction becomes "fact" while the truth gets drowned out. White cops want a threatening Black man? Candyman obliges, the story made manifest.
Anthony McCoy's art doesn't become viable until it gets associated with the spectre of that story. His horror movie sin is that he plays into it, choosing to profit off a false narrative, continuing to proliferate it. His punishment, like Helen Lyle before him, is transform into the visage of the lie, receiving the same persecution in turn. Just like the gentrified high rises that have paved over Black communities, in this situation we only see the reflection, not its source. This is why DaCosta begins with the source - inverting the bird's eye view credits of the original Candyman to put us in the perspective of those on the ground, those who have been paved over.
Throughout Candyman, I had a dumb grin on my face (though no one would have seen it under my mask) because of what I thought was an exquisitely composed, clever constructed metaphor(ror). Then I got home and read Angelica Jade Bastién's brilliant excoriation of the film (it's great, go read it!). Essentially, she argues that "The film postures as if it wants to critique the ways Black trauma is commodified and made successful in the realm of art, then does the very same thing," essentially selling itself to woke White audiences just like McCoy's paintings. And so I had to question if I was just enjoying the film because it was telling me a story I'd already been wanting to hear. Maybe I was too satisfied to look at the reflection and ignore the source.