Jonesing For Some Of That

lovejones_1Love Jones is the first review for our Black Love Fest. An authentic qualifier for a “black film” is a movie that is from the perspective of someone living the black experience. Love Jones is that, but it’s also a film that would be universally appreciated because of its love story, friendship, and artisan quality. I love the fact that the movie displays a beautiful black love story without constantly reminding the audience that it is a “black film.”

It is with a smile on my face that I listen to the movie’s opening song, Hopeless. The melody makes me want to cuddle up, and French kiss. Cinematically, the song matches the opening scene of black and white images of real people (non actors). The initial images are of an industrial area with a dreary backdrop of Chicago’s Hyde Park. The images are of non-smiling faces and a neighborhood that depicts poverty. But then there are images of children, friendship, love, and genuine laughter.

The movie opens up with the female main character, Nina (Nia Long), standing by a window while it is raining outside. She is having the typical, “I’m done with men” conversation with her girlfriend, Josie, played by Lisa Carson.  The scene then cuts into an evening girls’ night out. Nina and Josie go to The Sanctuary, a poetry spot that features local poets and musicians. The viewer is immediately pulled into the scene of live jazz music while a group of friends are sitting at a table. There are four men: The Writer – Darius (Larenz Tate), Married Intellectual – Savon (Isaiah Washington), The Poet/Showcase Host – Eddie Coles (Leonard Roberts), The Playboy Jerk – Hollywood (Bill Bellamy), and one female, The Dancer – Sheila (Bernadette Speakes). They are at the table joking and laughing and swapping stories on being romanced. Throughout the movie the depth of the characters and their personal struggles are revealed.

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Love Jones (1997)

lovejones_2Starring Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson, Bill Bellamy, Leonard Roberts, Bernadette Speakes, Khalil Kain, Cerall Duncan

Directed by Theodore Witcher

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


I knew Love Jones was going to be different right from the start. A laid-back groove played over the New Line Cinema logo and the first images on-screen were a series of black & white shots showing us the city of Chicago. This gives way to images of black neighborhoods, and then the smiling, unburdened faces of youth. These people are not our characters, they are merely the canvas that their story is painted on. It could be about them, but it happens to be about Nina (Nia Long) and Darius (Larenz Tate). The black & white vignette gives way to the first real scene of the film, as Nina is coming out of a long-term relationship and declaring that love is played out.

Given the genre of the film, it’s clear that someone is going to come along and change her mind. Darius is the clear candidate for that part when the two meet at a poetry reading in a downtown bar. Darius is all hot-fire and sexual energy, declaring to his friends (before he meets Nina) that romance is all about possibilities. When they’re exhausted, the relationship is over. While his explanation is poetic, it’s also short-sighted. Relationships are work, and possibilities can be renewed.

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