2006: Sanaa Hamri
Rated PG-13: 99 minutes
Vault Rating: 7
People, in general, are reluctant to try anything new. Come on, admit it. You go to a restaurant with a wildly diverse menu but you don’t dip into it. You order the same, safe, comforting dish you always do.
And I’ve seen you walking up and down the aisles at Adventure / SilverScreen – where Video Vault lives and plays – and I’ve told you: “Try that one. It doesn’t look like much, but its great.”
“Thank you,” you say as you politely turn the selection over in your hands before returning it to the shelf. “Maybe I will, thanks.”
Uh-huh. We live in a world of safety zones, preferences and prejudices.
Consider Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan), a sumptuous dish with an air of refinement and a heady work ethic in today’s feature, “Something New.” Kenya, who wakes up alone at 6:05 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, is shopping for an IBM. Not a computer, mind you, but rather the “ideal black male,” and, we quickly find, her options are few.
“Something New” lives up to its title by giving us a “relationship movie” that goes above and beyond the call of the regular “chick flick.” Here is a thoughtful portrayal of a very upwardly mobile black woman’s world in all its phases from the boardroom frustrations of the “black tax,” where she must work twice as hard just to stay even to the social expectations of her culture.
Some of these off-coffee colored boundaries are examined early on when Kenya goes out on a blind date and meets Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) in a crowded Starbucks. He is, of course, white.
“Leah described you perfectly,” she understates.
“What makes you say that?”
“Because you’re talking to strangers to make sure they know you’re down.”
It is in little exchanges like this one where Brian openly, but kindly, prods at Kenya’s boundaries.
“It’s not a prejudice,” she explains. “It’s a preference.”
“So you prefer to be prejudiced?”
And so goes a very short first date. But, as relationship movies would have it, you know that every relationship starts off just as badly as it can. Therefore you also know where director Sanaa Hamri is driving the bus. What sets this film apart, however, is not the destination but the route it travels.
Brian is a tolerant, thick-skinned man who sees well into people. Considerate and persistent, he wades into numerous touchy situations with Kenya, with her well-to-do family, at social functions and at a comedy club featuring black comedians. In this film, the white male is in the minority. He is the curiosity. The outsider. And so we get a keen look into the black side of the modern biracial equation.
I must defer here to Dave from Philipsburg who passed along a recommendation for the film “Shopgirl” in the Vault Mail recently. Dave coined, at least as far as I am concerned, the term “relationship movie” as used above.
Now, the difference between a “chick flick,” which would feature, say, Jennifer Anniston starring as a girl with only a first name, and a “relationship movie” – Recent films such as “The Family Stone” (Vault Rating: 7.5) and “Junebug” (Vault Rating: 8) qualify nicely along with today’s feature. – is the quality of the ideas that drive the story.
“Something New,” a relationship movie by definition, gives us something to really think about rather than relying on the usual cotton candy of the standard sub-form.
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Hey! You’re welcome! And so are your comments. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll print your comments in the Vault Mail! Give us your picks and pans. Let us hear what you’ve been enjoying lately. Full reviews are coming up on the wonder family film, “Duma,” and the laugh riot musical version of “The Producers,” both on the new release racks. Until next time. Enjoy.