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.