Jumping More Than The Broom (Dawn’s Review)

Jumping the Broom provides a less traditional Rom Com approach.

There were a few odds against going to see this Romantic Comedy during its opening weekend.   First, I despise Romantic Comedies.   A lot of my issues with them are business-related but some are personal.  As a matter of fact, I partly blame them for the struggles my husband and I had in the first few years of our marriage.  The fairytale romances I would pour over every weekend as a single woman were set ups!  The unrealistic expectations I was brainwashed into were bound to cause misery for Michael and I in the beginning.  I struggled with this post.  Perhaps I’m still harboring some hard feelings against those comedies for the damage they caused.  Needless to say, you usually won’t find me rushing to the theaters to see a cheesy love story interspersed with one liners and jokes.

Another strike against seeing Jumping was that it was opening weekend at theaters.  Being the fru gal that I am, my theater-going experiences have diminished.  I simply can’t bring myself to pay full price for things when I can get them cheaper by being patient.  That goes for anything from clothing to movies, so usually, if it’s not a film I’m trying to support, I Netflix.  

What’s funny is that my husband didn’t have to drag me out to the theater to see Jumping a few weeks ago.  Call it a desperate attempt for a new mom to get out the house but I, in fact, suggested that we go see the wildly publicized film with the all-star cast.

Jumping did not disappoint.

What peaked my interest was its good bone work—the casting and marketing were exceptional.  First, in this well-written and well-balanced distribution of talent, everyone seemed to fit in their roles and no one stood out as a miscast.  Secondly, it was hard not to miss the aggressive marketing campaign.  Whether I was browsing the internet or people-gazing on the bus, Jumping ads were everywhere.   I was extremely encouraged to see that type of money pumped into an up-beat, family friendly film with an all-Black cast.  It says to me that either Hollywood is gaining more confidence in Black films or Black power players are becoming more influential, or both. 

Allowing inflated ticket prices to push me away from movie theaters may have been a mistake.  Jumping reminded me of how the theater experience can take a funny film and amplify it.  I had a surprisingly good time watching Mike Epps and Loretta Divine act a fool in this fun depiction of two very different families coming together for a wedding.  I recall wiping away tears from all the laughing I did, which was refreshing.  I can’t say I’ve done that for a while.  Granted, my experience may have been colored a bit from my excitement of being out on a date with my husband after months, but this movie was worth seeing.  Below are some other things I took note of:

Laz Alonso is hot (but can’t hold a candle to the founder of this blog).  Moving on…

Moral Men

What stood out to me is that men are the moral consciousness of this movie.  This is rare, particularly when it comes to the romantic comedy genre.  Usually male characters are immature, deviant, or morally ambiguous characters who heavily rely on the female friend, co-worker, family member, or love interest to teach, guide, or tame them; not so in Jumping.  In fact, the strong male leads are centered, honest, forthcoming, sensitive, and even spiritual beings with moral grounding.  The film’s women, on the other hand, are accusatory, emotionally immature, irrational, manipulative, and just a whole lot of “extra” (translation: drama), which, as a woman, didn’t bother me.  Coming from a family of women, I’ve seen my fair share of feminine drama, particularly during weddings.  Let me be clear that Jumping didn’t paint women as evil and men as good but instead worked to not deify women and demonize men, which was a change.

In a rare movie moment, a three dimensional Black man is presented in Jumping the Broom.  From the groom to the groomsmen, this film offers a balanced approach to the Black male image, which I can’t help but think Bishop TD Jakes had something to do with.  Bishop Jakes, one of the film’s producers and stars, seems to be a big proponent of positive male presence in the movies he’s involved with; example, his last film, Not Easily Broken.  Too bad Broken wasn’t as good of a film as Jumping.

Mike Epps and Laz Alonso’s characters displayed the most moral grounding in Jumping.  Yes, you read correctly: Mike Epps plays a morally-centered character. 

The groom (Alonso) is spiritual, accomplished, well-educated from his hard work, not his pedigree, and disciplined both sexually and otherwise.   He also responsibly loves and cares for his mother.  In the movie, the centered and calm groom effectively manages two waves of emotional turmoil from his bride and mother; which is quite impressive.  I actually felt sorry for the guy a few times during the film and was surprised at his incredible grounding and control during situations where most men would either avoid or run.  He even, at one point, had to reach out to the good Lord for help.

Sure, Mike Epps’ character (the uncle of the groom) is sketchy but in a harmless/hilarious sort of way. He loves the ladies and holds tightly to the player’s game but deep down, he is grounded and sober-minded.  Epps has often played the impish comedic relief role, and while he is definitely comedic relief, his character is the only one able to put the out-of-line and out-of-control mother of the groom, Loretta Devine, in check. 

The father of the bride and the groomsmen also bring some very interesting moral play to the story further making this film a champion of males.  Guys: this just may be one “chick flick” you won’t mind seeing with your girl.

Some spiritual things to note were related to faith and how seriously, or not, we take it.  Loretta Devine’s character shows us how we sometimes hide behind our faith to cover up our own sins and fears.  As the mother of the groom, she was obviously grieving the loss of her son to his new wife, but instead of seeking healthy ways to deal with her sorrow,  she chooses manipulative methods and pulls the God-card to add value to what she’s done.  Unfortunately, pulling the God card has become quite a trend.

I also like how the idea of celibacy is handled in this fun love story.  Celibacy is introduced in the movie not because of a bet between friends or a game, or a joke, but in the context of faith.  Really…when was the last time we saw that successfully done in a film?  To the betrothed couple, celibacy was something to be taken seriously (although it was also fodder for some pretty hilarious jokes).  It was a commitment of faith and was something that, obviously, was not easy between the two lovers.  I’m glad the filmmakers didn’t trivialize the discipline and the commitment it takes to reserve sexuality for marriage.   I think the movie began to accurately get at how special, gratifying, and sacred a commitment to celibacy is and in a way that wasn’t preachy, religious, or gimmicky but natural.  To see the couple willfully and painfully discipline themselves in anticipation of marriage was more a display of love than the sexual act itself.  

A final note about what this movie got right.  Family drama.  Take any couple, Black, White, rich or poor, and bring them together for a marriage.  Be prepared for more drama than a Tyler Perry film.  The drama is a by-product of “the two becoming one,” arguably a traumatic experience that usually brings out the worst in everyone.  Jumping gives a rundown of each and every tantrum, outburst, and response to the marriage from momma to homeboy.  It notes that the main culprit of the drama is fear and anxiety: fear of the unknown, fear of losing a friend or child to someone else, and fear of being alone.  In the end this movie jumps more than the broom.  It gave me a little hope by jumping over my ill-fated expectations of romantic comedies.

Have you seen the film?  What did you think?

I Am For Colored Girls, pt. 3 of 3

Me and Dawn started talking about it in a Milwaukee restaurant called the Comet Cafe the day after we saw the movie.  We were away from the boy thanks to the kindness of Auntie Maggie, Grandma Washington, and Granny Gary.  We saw a late show the Sunday night before and instead of talking about what we saw–instead of me answering Dawn’s “So, tell me, where did you see God in the film?”–we pulled over into a parking lot and ordered custard, driving back to our hotel with cold teeth.  We didn’t get to talk about it immediately, despite Dawn pressing me.  But we did get to it.  

That conversation a couple weeks ago led to these posts.  I’m grateful to my wife’s thoughtful review.  I hope you appreciate her insights as well.  I’ll wrap this series up with a few of my opinions about For Colored Girls.

  1. The film was a filmI think art depicts life.  I think art is often, if not always, pushing a thought or an agenda.  But I don’t overstate the role of the medium through which a thought or agenda comes.  A film is a film, and while the screen carries power and has a good amount of influence, FCG has to be seen as a movie, as an artist’s rendering of a story, or, in this case, of a stageplay.
  2. That said, art provokes, and this movie provokes.  It makes me think about the role of men in relationships, poor and healthy.  It makes me wonder how strong I am as a husband when it comes to expressing my weaknesses and fears.  It makes me think of how well I handle my questions about life in relation to my life partner, my sister, my friends, and my mother.
  3. Men should watch this movie.  Men aren’t depicted well but the depiction is a fair one, especially since men can use the film as an invitation to good dialogue about what it means to be a man, to be in relationship to a woman, and to treat children and women well.  I’ve read a few things that folks have said about the movie, about the writing, and about the general depiction of men.  I do believe the movie is about women, primarily for girls, if you will.  But men always do well to take notes from the classes that enroll mostly women.
  4. Women-to-women relationships are invaluable.  I saw that in the movie.  I see that in life.  Women get each other when us men are trying to understand.  Women follow each other, track each other, feel each other while we’re doing our best to keep up and learn.  The fact is that there are some topics which women need to discuss with men, and there are some things that women need to discuss with other women.  Sisters are indispensable for each other.  A woman, a healthy woman almost always find it necessary to have solid sister-friends.  I am glad I have a role in the women in my life’s life.  But I’m glad they have others, and I’m thinking women here, to support them to.  Just as my life would be poorer without the women I have in it, theirs would be too.
  5. The words in this film are captivating.  This movie is worth seeing just to hear these great cast members fall into these long, flowing and engaging words.  I love words and if you love words–if you like to hear them or say them or write them or play with them–you’ll like them in the movie.
  6. Another quality installment in a still-growing conversation about AIDS.  I’m actually writing this particular thought on December 1, world AIDS day.  And I’m thinking about how many women lose the lives they want and the lives they aspire to because of the decisions of men to treat them wrecklessly.  Dawn commented on rape in her post, but the reality of AIDS further pierces the matter.  I appreciate that you couldn’t get away from Tyler Perry’s reminder that AIDS is real, and even though it comes from many directions, men cripple the lives of our women when we disregard them, behaving unfaithfully and wrecklessly.  I won’t say more because you should see the film to see how this is treated there.

Any thoughts?

For Colored Girls Who Consider This Movie When Hollywood Doesn’t Offer Enuff, pt. 2 of 3, Guest Post

Nearly 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson held a screening of D. W. Griffin’s fascinatingly racist masterpiece,  The Birth of a Nation (1915).  It was the first film to be seen at The White House.  Probably what’s more fascinating is that a century later African Americans are still struggling to find their stories and experiences in mainstream cinema.  Enter Tyler Perry. 

Perry knows his audience and, with every film, he is able to deliver with enough universal appeal to meet them.

Given his history with gospel plays and comedy, I found it quite ambitious for him to take on Ntozake Shange’s now classic play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuff.  During feminism’s heyday, the play helped afro-picking and fist-pumping women open up more about their experiences in the late 70’s; the movie is no different for today’s audiences. 

In a recent discussion about womanhood, a pastoral counselor here in the city, Dr. Janice Hodge, talked with me about the four parts of “the lady,” as she refers to her.  They are as follows:  1) the Madonna who offers the spiritual compass and provides the moral standard, if you will, for herself  and her household; 2) the Mother who nurtures; 3) the Courtesan is the sexual and passionate lover of herself and others; and, finally, 4) the Amazon who fights and is the strength of her family. 

For Colored Girls (FCG) introduces us to all four parts of the woman.  In the movie and play these characters are represented by a color but for the purposes of this blog, I choose to refer to them by the above titles.

We meet Gilda (Phylicia Rashad) who is the Madonna; Crystal (Kimberly Elise), the Mother; Tangie (Thandie Newton), the Courtesan, and Jo (Janet Jackson), the Amazon.  The other ladies in the film either straddle between multiple roles or don’t fit into any particular role.  The importance in discovering these distinct personalities in the characters is to also discover the importance of the film and the original play.  FCG is the story of one woman wrapped into multiple characters.  It is a story about you; it’s about me; it’s about women, particularly Black women.

That said, while there’s much to criticize about the film—one being Perry’s common mistake of going off the dramatic deep end and overwhelming us—there are more important things to discuss, such as what is to be appreciated in FCG:

She is all-seeing and all-knowing; she is both a savior and vilified; she is righteous with a sinful past; she is the film’s messianic figure.  Gilda, the Madonna of the movie, was one of the reasons this film is worth seeing.

The nosey neighbor from the top floor interfaced with nearly every woman in the film and had something valuable to contribute to each of their lives.  She spoke out of her wisdom and she spoke truthfully.  She made no apologies for who she was.  She embodied both conventional and unconventional forms of love.  When the angry and annoyed, Tangie barked at her, “You don’t know me!”  Gilda responded with, “I know you; I was you.”  When I think about how accomplished of an actor Phylicia Rashad is and was in this film (the best performance in the movie, Thandie Newton, a close second), I understood how appropriate it was to make her the savior of FCG.

A scene favorite of mine was between Gilda and Crystal, The Mother.  Crystal witnesses a horrific event committed at the hands of her boyfriend, an alcoholic war vet suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Beau Willie (Michael Ealy).  The omnipresent Gilda shows up during the aftermath.  Sinking into a hole of severe depression and on the verge of a mental break, Crystal is ready to seek revenge for the innocent ones.  But she and moviegoers are taken by surprise when Gilda’s soft and loving hand turns firm and commands Crystal to take responsibility for her part—an unconventional and shocking response to someone who has just suffered a great loss.  But the truth presented in the film was that Crystal had witnessed and been the recipient of Beau Willie’s violence for years—violence she knew others had suffered as well.

Much like the Lord, Gilda reminds us that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies; that sometimes bad things happen because we allow them.  I ponder that fact every time I’m asked the ever popular question, “If God is so good, why does he allow bad things to happen?”  While it’s a complicated question to answer—a question that most times has no human answer, particularly when it comes to natural disasters (like recent events in Haiti)—there are some instances when most of us are afraid to admit our role in our own personal disasters.  As Gilda did for Crystal, God’s tough and, perhaps, unconventional love not only comforts us and gently coaxes us to eat in times of despair but also opens the curtains, shines the bright light of truth and demands us to take responsibility for our actions.

Among the other story lines I appreciated in For Colored Girls was between Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose) and Bill (Khalil Kain).  Thank you Tyler Perry and Ntgontze Shange for being among the few to effectively paint a picture of date rape for women of color!  While I was sitting in the dark theater watching this disturbing scene (one among the few scenes artfully cut between juxtaposed images and action sequences), a light bulb came on.  “So that’s what date rape looks like,” I said to myself. 

I’ve certainly heard the term date rape before and was pretty confident that I knew the text book definition of it enough to at least have an intellectual discussion about it.  However, I am now convinced that it’s one thing to know the definition of date rape, it’s another thing to witness it, and it’s a whole other thing to experience it.

The power of film is that by the medium visually connecting with its audience, it delivers a message.  The powerful message in this particular scene?  Date rape can result from something as unassuming as a coworker showing himself to be the “perfect gentleman” after the first date.

The scene not only helped me to identify date rape but I’m sure light bulbs were blinking above other Black women who saw the film.  In my 32 years, I cannot recall ever hearing the term “date rape” among my Black girlfriends and family members, yet we all know it’s a problem in our community, one that goes widely unreported.   A problem that is complicated by the fact that we don’t even realize that we’ve experienced date rape due to the taboos and lies that have long obscured the truth in our community.  Possibly since slavery. Continue reading →

A Series For Colored Girls, pt. 1 of 3

I’m changing gears a bit and posting three entries related to Tyler Perry’s adaptation of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Not Enough.  Originally developed as a series of poems inside a stage play by Ntozake Shange, Perry’s film has been the subject of many cultural critics, film reviewers, and essayists.  I’ll add my series to that chorus.

Today I’m listing a few links for you.  In the next post, you will be treated to a review by my beloved wife, Dawn.  The third post will be my own reflection.

Now, the links.

Come back tomorrow for Dawn’s insightful review.  Post any comments you have about the movie anytime over the next three posts, especially if you’ve seen it or if you have really good reasons not to.  Otherwise, I suggest you see the movie.  And did I say come back and read my wife’s guest post?