Directed by Theodore Witcher
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.
The strength of a film like this also hinges heavily on its stars and Nia Long and Larenz Tate do a fantastic job. They are believable, they are sexy, they are great together. The couples in the following films in this Black Love series will have a lot to live up to if they want to rival Nina and Darius’s on-screen chemistry. The supporting characters aren’t shabby either, as Isaiah Washington, Bill Bellamy and Lisa Nicole Carson all light up the screen when given their chances.
I immediately had to know why, so I started searching. I quickly came upon this article from 2012 where Witcher laments the fact that he was never able to get funding for another film. I don’t want to get too angry here (we’re celebrating love after all), but the bullshit politics of Hollywood never fail to infuriate me. A young up-and-coming guy with this much talent can’t get a second movie off the ground? Witcher says the projects he pitched were more ambitious movies featuring large black casts, and this is undoubtedly what sunk his career. I long for the day when Hollywood isn’t the segregated industry it continues to be, presenting us with casts more representative of the America we all live in. Argh! OK, I’ll stop now, but it just gets me all worked up knowing that Witcher was denied a chance at a potentially fruitful career as a writer/director.
But even if Witcher never makes another film, at least he’s got Love Jones to his name. It’s a fantastic romantic drama that should delight anyone looking for one, and it’s got an incredibly diverse and awesome soundtrack, too. Any film that can deftly wield jazz, blues, reggae, hip hop, and ’90s R&B is doing something right. Love Jones is an excellent film to see and hear, and it’s one that definitely deserves more attention. Highly recommended.