Starring Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Blair Underwood, Donald Faison, Alfre Woodard, Earl Billings, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Katharine Towne, Stanley DeSantis, Mike Epps, Julie Mond, Lee Garlington
Directed by Sanaa Hamri
Something New begins with a picture-perfect wedding — until the blaring sound of an alarm shatters the peace! Turns out it was only a dream for our main character, Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan), a workaholic accountant for a major Los Angeles firm. She simply doesn’t have the time for a relationship, and even if she did, there isn’t a guy she’s met that can stack up against “The List,” AKA all the things Kenya just won’t do or tolerate in a man.
But her loneliness is strong, so after the prodding of her girlfriends, she decides to agree to her co-worker’s offer of setting up Kenya on a blind date. But she never expected her date to be Brian (Simon Baker), a white landscape architect that ticks off just about every negative on Kenya’s list. What Something New does exceptionally well is walk the line between interracial cultural drama and romantic comedy, painting its story and characters with equal swaths of both. This makes for a film that is always entertaining and charming, as well as thought-provoking.
During the film, most of my thoughts turned towards how the film handled Kenya and Brian’s interracial romance. Kenya is very opposed to it because she’s been brought up with the mindset that it is proper to date within one’s race. Brian is of course the opposite, willing to date anyone. He sees people as people, regardless of their cultural background. Once Brian is able to melt Kenya’s icy exterior, things between them are divine and they share some intensely erotic moments. I’d never thought that something as simple and innocuous as painting toenails could be the source of such pure, romantic, sexual energy as it is here.
The problem with Kenya and Brian as a couple isn’t between them, it’s more about how other people see them and how it influences Kenya. She feels like she’s letting down her race by dating outside it, and her struggles throughout the film made me, a white male, consider how tough it must be for someone in this position. I don’t have any first-hand knowledge about this romantic clash of cultures, but I understand how difficult it can be. Societal pressure is a tough one to push against, and I respect everyone with the courage to love whoever they love in spite of any obstacles in their way. I can’t claim to have any profound thoughts about it, but the overall theme of the film — that you should be open to expanding your horizons — isn’t very profound either. What it is, though, is very well presented (something I can’t necessarily claim about this paragraph). 😛
Something New marked the directorial debut of Sanaa Hamri, and she does a great job at making the film interesting at the story and visual levels. The cinematography is especially nice, highlighting the differences in the character’s philosophies through the use (or lack) of strong colors. Kenya’s family attends a dance performance mid-way through the movie that is stunning in its brilliant color that basks the dancers in strong hues as they show off equally bold, sexual dance moves. Passion is a multicolored experience, something completely at the other end of the spectrum to Kenya’s monochromatic interior design. The film’s editing is also atypical for a mainstream Hollywood film, showing off some excellent jump-cutting among many nicely constructed scenes.
I’m really torn about rating the film, though. I really enjoyed it, and I don’t think that a simple three stars shows how much I did enjoy it. Logic would suggest that I should then rate it 3 1/2, but that also feels wrong. I’m just going to have to settle with three, mainly because the film has a couple of logical misfires in the last act. I don’t want to go into deep detail and spoil everything, but let’s just say that our lovebirds are having some trouble and they meet up, both sporting someone new on their arms. We get resolution with one of these extra someones, but the other is just completely forgotten after this scene. Huh? It ultimately doesn’t matter, because this character never really mattered to the film, but it just seemed odd to introduce someone to complicate the relationship, only to have it never be an issue again. Little things like this bother me, but because of my general love for Something New it was only like a little gnat buzzing my face for a moment instead of a swarm of wasps. Which reminds me, if you haven’t seen the Kevin Hart bit about gnats, you totally should.
Something New is a great romantic film for anyone looking for something new. Corny, I know, but it’s true! The more of these Black Love films that I see, the more I realize that they are films for everyone and not a specific race. We are all one people, after all, so I guess it should come as no surprise. Now if only we could convince the rest of the movie-going public of this. (Hint hint: head out and see the new About Last Night, in theaters now!)