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Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm Through With White Girls...

Is the title of an adorable movie I saw last night. Some have you might have seen it already; I passed it up at a couple of film fests cause the trailers turned me off. It seemed silly, lame, and cliched, and I certainly didn't want to spend an hour of my life seeing a brother chase the grey girls.

But if that stopped you as well, or if you haven't heard of it, I implore you to find/rent/ watch it on cable. I was surprised at it's freshness, it's sweetness, and it's optimism about black love, without being corny at the same time. It is funny, and the lead actor, Anthony Montgomery, is very easy on the eyes ifyaknowwhatimean. The lead actress seemed like a very cool chick--I know some people like her, though I must admit her hair had me at my wit's end. For those of you that consider yourselves different from the expected Black "norm" or maybe just a nerd looking for love, you will especially enjoy this. I also know a lot of the readers of this blog have said they liked "Hav Plenty" (which I did not, more on that later)--you will definitely get into this one.

I was going to write a review, but I saw one on Pajiba that summed up perfectly how I felt about it (plus Ms. Invisible's feeling a tad slackish today):

After a while, you get used to the romantic-comedy template. In fact, after reviewing dozens and dozens of them, you begin to realize that it’s not the existence of either romance or comedy that makes a movie a romantic comedy — since those qualities so rarely exist in the genre — but whether the movie follows the romantic-comedy structure: A man and (usually a) woman meet; they either fall immediately in love, or hate one another and fall in love later, then separate due to a contrived argument or circumstance, before ultimately reuniting after a callback and/or heartfelt speech, i.e. the grand gesture. It’s been the same since Shakespeare, and there’s no indication that this will ever change. And why should it? Name a romantic-comedy that ends unhappily, and I’ll give you a bad romantic comedy (see, e.g., The Break-Up and Prime, two more recent examples in which the protagonists didn’t end up together).

And by traditional measures, I’m Through with White Girls: The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks (currently making the film-festival rounds) fits the romantic-comedy mold: Jay Brooks (Anthony Montgomery), a slacker-geek graphic novelist with a history of commitment issues, meets Catherine (Lia Johnson), an up-and-coming feminist author. They fall for each other more or less immediately, develop a serious relationship over the course of the film, and then — through a contrived argument that entails both his fear of commitment and her trust issues with men — the two separate, and Jay tries to win her back with a grand gesture, this one involving self-humiliation.

By that count, I’m Through with White Girls is a typical romantic-comedy, except that it’s not: In addition to being a rare rom-com that actually roms and coms, it’s also unusually smart, clever, and contains an authentic social message that is neither trite nor self-serious. What’s unusual about the fact that Jay is a slacker geek graphic novelist is that he’s also African-American, and Catherine - an uber-feminist writer - is of mixed-race and happens to speak like a valley girl, both characters defying racial stereotypes. Jay’s history of commitment issues also all involve white girls, because black women have never found him particularly date-worthy. Nevertheless, he decides, after a series of bad relationships with a string of white women, to swear them off. Meanwhile, Jay’s quirky best friend (male best friends in romantic comedies are always quirky - check the archives), Matt (Ryan Alosio) is an unemployed white dude with a video-game obsession who, to win the affection of a white girl, studies rap music and embraces the hip-hop lifestyle.

Sounds kind of crass, doesn’t it? And yes: Perhaps in a conventional studio comedy, all the stereotypes about race and sex would be trotted out and lazily exploited in a borderline offensive manner (e.g., white chicks dig black guys because they have big dicks), featuring Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer, and LaWanda Page. But here, director Jennifer Sharp, working from a script from Courtney Lilly (who, fittingly, has written episodes of both “Everybody Hates Chris,” and “Arrested Development”) playfully toys with those stereotypes in as subversive a manner as allowed while still maintaining the romantic-comedy label. The whole thing is surprisingly sweet, strangely funny, and so unexpectedly good that it took me a while to realize it was actually a romantic comedy. Indeed, despite a title that screams lame urban comedy, I’m Through with White Girls is something akin to a cross between High Fidelity and a Spike Lee film, if Spike Lee still had a goddamn sense of humor.

Granted, it is a truly independent film (not from one of those corporate-owned specialty studios), and it shows in some of the film’s supporting cast - a few of the actors/actresses seem as though they were pulled off the street or were friends of friends just hanging out, likely given the two-week shoot (I am, however, impressed with the casting of Alaina Reed Hall, who some may remember from “Sesame Street” and “227.”). But despite a budget that probably wouldn’t pay for a day’s catering on a studio film, the cinematography is fantastic - vibrant and luscious, a romantic-comedy seemingly colored by a graphic designer. Super-hardcore-uber -neo-maxie- dun-dweebie-Trekkie geeks may even recognize the two leads - Lia Johnson (whose character is ten kinds of attractive and winsome as all hell) had a role in Star Trek: New Voyages, while Anthony Montgomery was a regular cast-member in “Enterprise,” and he is flat-out fantastic - the man effuses charisma, and I have no idea where this guy has been hiding. The two together have more chemistry even than Ashton Kutcher has with himself, which is saying something, given his obvious self-adoration. And Ryan Alosio is impressive as a poor man’s Justin Kirk, and his hip-hop white boy is less funny that it is sweet.

What’s most impressive about I’m Through with the White Girls, however, is its place in the current genre: It’s neither an Apatow-friendly dick-flick full of frattish humor or unattractive guys dating attractive women, nor is it the other side of the spectrum: A Rainbow Killer/McConaughey chick flick obsessed with finding Mr. Right. Instead, White Girls is a real goddamn love story that deftly explores race, gender, and class issues while maintaining a sense of humor. In other words, nothing that’s likely to come to a theater near you anytime soon.

From IW:
Word. Here is a a trailer of the movie. Bear in mind, this is not the one I saw; this one is much better:

For a terrific interview that my girl SolShine did with the lead, Anthony Montgomery, on her blog Think Virtue! click HERE. She also has a sweet blog all about minority film called "Reel Artsy" which is on my blogroll, but you can click HERE to check it out.


bluebird said...

The trailer looked really good...not like those other hot mess black movies I've seen before. I'm actually looking forward to checking it out...oh wait...I live in the Midwest so I guess that means...never...or wait until it comes on BET late at night...Thanks for this!

Skoolboi Krush said...

My girlfriend got this on Netflix a couple weeks back. It was pretty good. Refreshing characters and not the cookie cutter storyline.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for reviewing this! I saw this film last year at the Chicago Film Festival and it was one of my favorites. I'm not a Love Jones or Hav Plenty fan either--in fact most romantic comedies bore me--but I loved I'm Through With White Girls. It's definitely not your ordinary Black romantic comedy. And in a humorous and not at all preachy way it says a lot about the class divides within the Black community as well. It's definitely work renting. I wish there were more films like this.

Invisible Hand said...

Full disclosure: I wrote that.

Thanks for the good word.

madame z said...

I have this movie coming from my netflix :) Thanks for the suggestion. reviewes on the site for it are favorable also :)

clnmike said...

Looks good.

SolShine7 said...

Thanks for the links. I'm glad you enjoyed it too! And that review says it quite nicely, kudos to the reviewer.

Ehav Ever said...

I heard about this film on the Mixed Chicks Podcast. I have waiting for it to come DVD and now that it has I have already put in an international order for it.

Invisible Woman said...

@bluebird: it is on DVD so maybe you can rent it or order it from amazon; no hot mess here, fo sho.

@skoolboi: loves it that you have your girl ridin' witchu! :-) it is not cookie cutter at all, and i was so happy to view it--i hope we see more like it.

@tiffany: thanks you sis! i thought i was the ONLY Black person on planet earth not feeling love jones. maybe cause i have never really gotten into larenz tate and nia long as actors--tho i have nothing against them.

this film could be a modern replacement of both of those movies.

@invisible hand: GTFOH!!!! Are you Dustin? Wow. What were the chances of that? Great minds think alike, haha!

I love Pajiba; I bow down to your are even more amazing than I thought :-)

Invisible Woman said...

@madame z: i would LOVE to hear what you thought about it after you see it...

@clnmike: it is. it may give you hope that somebody might cure you of your chronic bachelorism--lol!

@solshine: if you see above, the reviewer is a regular commenter on this blog. kudos to both of y'all.

@ehav: hi there. you better start commenting more often! :-) it is definitely worth the wait, trust me...

Ehav Ever said...

Hey IW,

Wow, I am in that much demand around here huh? Well, I am doing my own movies if you haven't noticed. The Chronicles of Ehav Ever has gone VLOG. I mentioned you in the intro. I will definitely have to leave a comment about you concerning you liking Ghost Rider. Just wait, I'll come up with something witty to say about that.

Invisible Woman said...

@ehav: looking forward to all of it :-)