by Anthony King
Permit me to continue quoting the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff. “You know parents are the same | No matter time nor place | They don't understand that us kids | Are going to make some mistakes | So to you, all the kids across the land...” You know how it goes. In the case of the made-for-tv movie Dreams Don't Die, as well as most TVMs of the '70s and '80s, all adults can be substituted for the “parents” about whom Will and Jeff are rapping. It's the age old battle: kids versus grownups. Both sides think the other doesn't “get it.” Both sides are correct. Heading toward what some claim to be *gulp* middle age, and with two boys of my own, I hate to see that I'm turning into what I swore I never would: a grown up; a nagging parent; a tired dad; old man yells at cloud. But, I'd also like to think I'm open-minded enough to continue to grow and learn and educate myself in the ways of the youngs. The olds are out. The youngs are in. But the war wages on. And in Dreams Don't Die, neither side comes out the victor.
While the overall story, performances, score by Brad Fiedel, gorgeous NYC photography by cinematographer Tony Imi, and original paintings by graffiti artist Dondi, White's dialogue is what really drew my ear and kept my attention. The words he gave these kids – all under 20 – to say, and, along with their delivery of those words, had a Shakespearian lilt to them. Israel Juarbe as Kirk especially says his dialogue and a sort of iambic pentameter, giving his performance a beautiful theatrical quality. In seducing Teresa to come work for him, Kirk says, “Permit me to re-energize your dress,” commenting on her worn down clothes. The adults surrounding Kirk, from the police to lawyers to clients, fear him. They recognize the power this child has in the mean streets of 1980s New York. Everyone knows that with a nod Kirk can have any one of them shot and killed. So too do White and Young. Their recognition of the brains and guts a school of hard knocks-educated kid possesses is important in letting their audience know kids know things and we (parents, adults) should be paying attention.