Monday, February 13, 2006

Movie Review of "Something New"


Here's Sheisty's of Playahata.com review of "Something New"

Rating: PG-13 for sexual references.

It's no secret that Hollywood doesn't have a lot of love for sistas. Whether it's the Tragic Mulatto or the all-knowing, all-seeing Mammy, black women have had it hard over the years. Only recently have we seen the climate shift to an era in which black women can just be portrayed as women: simple and complex at the same time. With Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, and (until recently) Angela Bassett firmly established as bankable leading ladies,the pathway has been cleared for the enormously talented Sanaa Lathan.In her first starring role, she fares relatively well in the romantic comedy Something New.

I'll be the first to admit, I wasn't too crazy about the premise of this movie. The whole "urban" romantic comedy thing peaked with Love Jones,and Hollywood's reliance on this familiar formula reeks of patronage.And since I, like %99 of the other brothas in the nation, have had a grown-man crush on Lathan since Love and Basketball, I wasn't too enthused about watching her laid up with some white dude. Thankfully,Something New adds some debate-worthy dilemmas and a solid cast to the old recipe, sparing us from the wrath of such recent movies like 2004's dreadful Breakin' All the Rules.

Lathan stars as Kenya, an uptight thirty something accountant on the fast track to professional success, but a personal failure who finds herself dateless on Valentine's Day. Lamenting upon the fact that %42.4(the film's original title) of all black women have never been married;she decides to spread her wings and go on a blind date. When she arrives at (product placement alert!) Starbucks and discovers her date Brian(Simon Baker) is white, Kenya is caught off guard and cuts things off immediately. But when she runs into him at a party a few days later, she is awed by his work and reluctantly hires him as her landscaper. True to form, the usual cut-and-paste romantic comedy courtship ensues: she finally gives him a shot, they hit it off, a superficial conflict arises, she momentarily falls for someone else (Blair Underwood in his usual sleazy role) and they end up married happily ever after. There aren't many surprises in this movie; the genre pretty much requires you to stick to the formula.

So why do I recommend this movie? Lathan. The camera loves her, and so will you. Finally given the opportunity to carry a movie, she doesn't disappoint. Her screen presence is notable, and even when the sometimes sophomoric dialogue fails her, she still manages to emit an aura of grace and likeability that's hard to deny. Simply put: she's a star, and stars can sometimes make average movies worth watching. Hopefully Hollywood noticed and gives her some heavier material to work with in the future. Baker, however, isn't very likeable, nor believable as her jungle lover (what landscaper do you know that digs trenches in $200 Ben Sherman button downs?), but I'm pretty sure his inclusion was one of those concessions they had to make to get the movie green lit. The rest of the cast (Blair Underwood, Alfre Woodard, Donald Faison, Taraji Henson, etc.) is a gaggle of faces and names you've seen elsewhere and,with the exception of Mike Epps, is mostly forgettable.

Sadly, like any Hollywood movie dealing with the "R" word, racial politricks are in full effect. Brian is just too perfect, and the way hewins over Kenya is unnerving. He says all the right things, supportsnoble causes, has all the right answers, is great in the sack, AND is hung like a stallion (an emasculating point the movie is quite emphaticin stating). Unlike every black man she's ever met, Brian is thoughtful,romantic, and allows her to be her (even encouraging her to get rid of her weave!). With very little effort, a broke white dude who drives around in a filthy truck with a mangy dog is able to smash a top notch professional sista in less than a week. It's almost like some white guy's interracial dream come true. Would a movie about a black landscaper bedding a white woman have even been green lit, hell, even been written? I think not. The underlying message seems to be to tell black women to stop putting up with brothers' mess, and just to take anywhite dude, cause heck, you can be yourself with them, and who caresabout color anyway? There's an interesting subplot with Epps' character(a chef) "marrying up" to a black female judge, but when you add it all up, brothers seem to come out on the short end of the stick with this movie. Big time.

Furthermore, the movie presents a very unrealistic view of how blacks handle interracial dating. Kenya's parents and friends are openly hostile towards Brian, something that just doesn't happen in real life.Sure, black folks will talk trash about you when you turn your back, but the way that many of the characters confront Brian about dating Kenya is mean spirited and borderline racist. In my limited experience, whites inexclusively black settings seem to get treated better than vice versa,not worse. Just think about the last time a white family visited your church and you'll know what I mean. Black people are oppressed and excluded enough as is, the last thing we want is to impose those same feelings on someone else. Likewise, when Kenya and Brian get into a racially charged argument about how her white co-workers are treating her, an otherwise hefty debate on how blacks are treated in hostile work environment gets reduced to a lover's quarrel. It's as if the writers had to find someway to create tension between the characters and chose to fabricate something that didn't exist. In failing to adequately address the obvious issues of race, the movie misses the mark that could have made it something far more substantive.

All things said however, I'll recommend it for no reason other than Lathan. Hell, I'd pay $9 just to stare at her for an hour and a half,but she proves herself more than worthy of leading lady status.Something New isn't necessarily anything new, but it is a smart,though-provoking date movie, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Grade: B-

Comments, feedback?

16 comments:

MIZPOWDERPINK said...

I saw the movie and loved it! The dialogue was pretty good, which is rare in our movies. I disagree with some of this review. The movie was about us, black woman, expanding our options in the realm of companionship. There were great relationships between black people in this movie. The brothers were represented well, just not many to choose from.

The white guy in the movie was a successful land architect who left the corporate world and as a result was more relaxed with running his business. He was not at all white trash.

In the movie Kenya's friends and family were more sarcastic then hostile. As someone who has the pleasure of being among the rainbow coalition on the regular, I would say that their behavior was quite realistic for a social setting.

Go see it because it was a fun movie.

Supa said...

Mz Pink - I feel you. I thought the movie was cool, albiet a lil' corny in some spots....it did follow the usual romantic/comedy prototype. I did laugh out loud in some scenes, but that's cause I went to see it w/my silly relatives. When Kenya and gardener dude were all hugged up in the Jeep and driving down the street, we were like "you betta get off Crenshaw Blvd wit alla that."

lol

Qusan said...

I really enjoyed the movie too. The family was funny and I think that any new "date," would get a certain amount of "hazing" regardless of color. Except for Kenya's mom, the others were just giving him the requisite hard time in looking out for their friend/sibling/daughter.

I went with a group of women and even the white girl in our pack decided that she'd find herself a Brian too.

Supa said...

Not for nuthin' - the white boy was not cute to me AT ALL. Too scraggly looking. A poor-woman's Matthew McCaughney or however you spell his name. Not that I think HE'S cute either.

Clive Owen or Mark Wahlberg is more my speed...

Supa said...

And what did they do to my baby Blair Underwood's hair? And the mustache! He was a hot mess. But I wouldn't kick him out my bed..

P said...

I'm about to open my piehole:

I wonder how accepted this movie would be if an up and coming black male would have had issue with finding a potential suitor, then finds a non woman of color, then another good woman of color comes along, but he rides into the sunset happily ever after with the white chick?

Also, interesting that this movie came out during black history month

I'm just sayin.

Supa said...

Your piehole always welcome here, P!

Don't know if that kind of movie would be accepted. Undercover Brother comes close to your theme, but that was a comedy! And he ended up back with his Soul Sister and saved the world....

re: Black History month release, what you totin' around some conspiracy theories or somethin'?

P said...

Supa:

You know me. . .

See-Oh-En - SPIRACY!

Cocoa Girl said...

LOL on the conspiracy theory!

I would be pissed if such a movie were made (black guy finds his white queen...) but that's because I'm a black woman who feels she is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to dating and mating, e.g the Underdog. My two cents.

African girl, American world said...

Question? Is there a 'black' movie out there that brothers actually think is true to them?

I mean really, Color Purple - we were portrayed wrongly....Waiting to Exhale - same thing...you name it same argument.

The fact that we all know some brotha just as they were portrayed doesn't help this reviewer's case. Blair's character wasperfect, just not for her!

Quite frankly brothas need to get a grip. Movies are movies. Damn! How many times do y'all have us portrayed as gold diggers and what nots with no substance? Do we complain?

I still liked the movie. yes it was cliche but to me they managed to 'go there' and not just leave it all fluffy.

Miss Ahmad said...

I really want to see this movie, but I hope it's still in theaters in March, because I simply cannot support the black history month release date on this one!

don't blame me blame my crazy as black panther parents!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to wait on this one to come out on DVD and watch it. Just some thoughts..really like the way you write. Hollow wood doesn't give black women enough credit, what we've seen is that they think we can't carry a film. We lack the universal appeal. Remember Hollow wood banks all over the world. Second, this is stock writing. Perhaps we are seeing the beginning of the demise of the old Hollow wood patented casting and writing. I think its refreshing to have an interracial couple "falling" in love. In the Bodyguard Whitney fell in love with Kevin Costners character, but he was unavailabe to love her back properly. Then we have Girlfriends with Tony. They cast her as being bossy, sassy, and difficult and then she ruins her own marriage to a white guy that she disrespects. I often wondered what the point of her liason was with him, since it never rang true. Unlike you Supa sista I believe in intra racial dating, people of color with people of color, and why hasn't Hollow wood banked on that? I applaud the fact that this movie was directed by Sanaa Hanrii an African (Moroccan director/female) who has also done many videos notably for Mimi. At any rate we can't expect much from Hollow wood, I'll check this out and rate it. Have a Good Valentines Day.

SatisfiedSistah

Supa Sister said...

Hey SatisfiedSistah, welcome! Let me clarify that the "Something New" movie review was not my own piece, but written by a colleague over @ playahata.com by the name of Shiesty. (Didn't know if the positive feedback re: my writing was taken from this piece or others)

At any rate! Pls give us feedback once you've viewed...I agree that most inter-racial relationships portrayed in the mainstream (btwn black women & white men) have not been alogether positive and/or fully representative...Though I DO believe in "intra-racial/ethnic" dating, I love me some men of color! That's just my preference, with black men being my personal preference - they are just my main attraction across the board. But I also won't SLEEP on the fine ass Indian, Latino, Phillipino, etc. brothas trust and believe! :)
Thx for the feedback. One!

Knockout Zed said...

I would fuck with this movie with YOUR dick! Superman is white, again.

KZ

Looking elsewhere said...

I liked the movie...yeah, formulaic but still a a nice movie. After having many discussions about the %42.4 situation with my single girlfriends, a lot of us are expanding the criteria. (Reluctantly, but expanding nevertheless.) We've worked hard and we want marriage and families...something in short supply on our own side of the street. We support brothers (emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc.) but how long are we supposed to wait for them to get it together? They can have kids well into their late sixties...but for women, we have to make those reproductive decisions a lot sooner. (Note: Yes, we know many single women have kids and are fabulous all by themselves but we would like to be married first and then have our children.)

obifromsouthlondon said...

I'ld love to see it (though i always end up somewhere between guns, cheap porn and sci-fi. brrrrhhh)

have/had a crush on lathan and bassett. honey dip, caramel sundae, chocolate deluxe ...