Something Just Right

SOMETHING OLD

somethingnew_6Something New (SN) challenges the old way of thinking that we should “stick with our own.” This is not a stereotypical interracial comedy like Guess Who, where there is no development of characters or the deep-rooted issues of dating “outside your race.” SN is an endearing love story that touches on the realistic struggles of dating interracially. I was skeptical on whether to include SN into our Black Love Fest, but SN details factual challenges from the perspective of a black woman. Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is a senior accountant. She is obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, and complex. She works hard but plays little. Her main social life is with her besties: Judge – Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Pediatrician – Suzette (Golden Brooks), and Banker – Nedra (Taraji P. Henson). They get together often and school each other on looking for an IBM (Ideal Black Man). They make a pact to, “Let it go, and let it flow.” Their mantra sets off a chain of new experiences such as Kenya going on a blind date.

SOMETHING NEW

somethingnew_7Something new can be a serendipitous experience. But it can also make us vulnerable and fearful of the unknown. Kenya accepts a blind date with a landscaper, Brian (Simon Baker). They meet at a Starbucks in L.A.. Kenya is so shocked and uncomfortable by Brian being white that she abruptly ends their date. Later, she unexpectedly sees Brian at a dinner party of their mutual friend. She discovers that Brian did the beautiful landscaping. I love when Brian tells her, “If you’re ever ready, call me.” This definitely has a double meaning. Kenya only agrees that he can be her landscaper after he sends her a copy of Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte is crossed out and replaced by “Kenya’s Web” after a “spider incident” at the nursery. It is during an unplanned and unwanted hike that they share a kiss. Kenya loses herself in the kiss until she realizes whom she is kissing. She is disturbed and asks to be taken home. When Brian drops her off she tries to get rid of him, but he starts to kiss her against the wall. His hands are all over her. He takes charge and they make passionate love, which is followed by an endearing pillow talk scene where he caresses and kisses her face. He unfortunately ruins it by asking her if can she take her hair off. That is a “hell no” with black women who wear weaves. He said he was just wondering what she looks like completely naked, but she was pissed, and kicked him out.

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Something New (2006)

somethingnew_1Starring 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

Expectations: Moderate.

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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.

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The Game of Love

loveandbasketball_1FIRST QUARTER… early ’80s

The title Love and Basketball (LAB) is appropriate for this film; it’s about the deep love of two people and a deep love for basketball. The film chronicles the love story of two neighbors: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps). The movie opens up with 11-year-old Monica moving in next door to Quincy “Q” in Baldwin Hills, CA. Monica joins a pick-up game with Q and his two friends. First words out Quincy’s mouth, “Girls can’t play no ball,” and Monica’s response is, “I ball better than you.” This becomes the theme of what will continue to be a conflict with both characters: Monica’s attitude and need to defend the pressures associated with being a female baller, and Quincy’s privileged idealism of being a baller, and son of an NBA player.

The film establishes all the characters and family dynamics within the first 10 minutes. I will stop and reiterate that most romantic comedies/dramas are similar; people meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after. What makes movies unique (especially black films) are the nostalgic factors such as identifying with characters, the music, and exposure to black culture. There are many examples throughout the movie. What stands out the most to me is the music, and the scene where Monica’s sister, Kerry (Monica Calhoun), is combing Monica’s hair. That is something I often did for my siblings growing up; “greasing scalps,” and “oiling” hair has always been prevalent in black culture. The music is authentic in mirroring the trials and tribulations of the actors. The song Candy Girl by New Edition is blasting in the background as they start their pick-up game.

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Love & Basketball (2000)

loveandbasketball_2Starring Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, Debbi Morgan, Harry J. Lenix, Kyla Pratt, Glenndon Chatman, Boris Kodjoe, Gabrielle Union, Monica Calhoun, Regina Hall, Tyra Banks

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

Expectations: Moderate.

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When I sat down to watch Love & Basketball, I assumed I’d be in for two things: love and… Ukrainian field hockey! Hahaha, no, I expected the basketball, and I wasn’t let down. Love & Basketball is indeed full of both love and basketball, but what I didn’t expect was a side-by-side look at men’s and women’s basketball. For me, this was by far the most interesting part of the film because of what it brings to light about the differences between the genders through the game of basketball. It’s not just about the game, it’s about life. I know that sounds kinda hokey and clichéd, but it’s the truth and Love & Basketball does a great job covering these themes it sets out for itself.

Our story begins in 1981, when Quincy and Monica are both 11 years old. Monica has just moved next door to Quincy and they meet when Monica asks if she can play basketball with Quincy and his friends. Quincy isn’t exactly nice to her, but she still seems to like him anyway, and thus our tale of love in-between the hoops begins. The film is structured in four quarters like a basketball game, sometimes making time jumps of multiple years between quarters. So even though we start in their youth, we are only there for a small section of the film.

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