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2 items from 2000

Film Review: 'Loving Jezebel'

27 October 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Kwyn Bader's "Loving Jezebel" is a slight, unpleasant romantic comedy about a man who always pursues -- or is pursued by -- other men's women. The film's leading man, Hill Harper, goes into overdrive to make this hormonal clown sympathetic, but all he manages is to make him tiresome. The theatrical outlook is as dim as the level of wit in this hapless comedy.

Theodorus Melville (Harper) is first glimpsed jumping from a brownstone window in Manhattan as an angry husband (David Moscow) shoots the locks off his door. We flash back to kindergarten, where Theo gains his initial broken heart by a young "Jezebel".

This episode repeats itself through high school and Columbia University, where a succession of women who go with other men unaccountably want to flirt with Theo. He eventually finds his true love in Samantha (Laurel Holloman) -- but, alas, she too is trapped with a meathead husband.

Nearly all of these women are ripe candidates to be supermodels. But most of their brain cells appear unused, and all lack moral sense. Thus, we have a movie about the glories of women, told by a man who loves well but not wisely, in which every woman is a bimbo.

"Jezebel"'s only curiosity is that while the male lead and writer-director are black, it makes a studious effort to deny even the existence of ethnicity. While this rainbow love-in is a wonderful dream on the sociopolitical front, the film misses the humor and richness that ethnicity can bring to comedy.

The acting and direction never rise above the level of a slapped-together TV skit. And other than a soundtrack jumping with jazz and other hot music -- supervised by Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, Kerry Barden and Mark Bennett -- technical contributions are minimal.


The Shooting Gallery

The Shooting Gallery and STARZ! Pictures

in association with BET Movies/STARZ! presents

a David Lancaster production

Producer: David Lancaster

Screenwriter-director: Kwyn Bader

Director of photography: Horacio Marquinez

Production designer: Franckie Diago

Music: Tony Prendatt

Costume designer: Arjun Bhasin

Editor: Tom McArdle



Theodorus Melville: Hill Harper

Samantha Parks: Laurel Holloman

Frances: Nicole Ari Parker

Mona: Sandrine Holt

Walter: Larry Gillard

Gabe Parks: David Moscow

Salli: Elisa Donovan

Alice Melville: Phylicia Rashad

Running time - 87 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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Film review: 'Restaurant' A 'Restaurant' With Few Reservations / Brody, Neal are the main course, with theme of prejudice on the side

1 February 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Restaurant" is a spirited tale about a group of show-business aspirants who, naturally, hold jobs at an upscale bar and grill.

While romance and comedy dominate its sleek surfaces, director Eric Bross and writer Tom Cudworth let dramatic undercurrents involving race and prejudice slowly work their way to the surface. What results is a satisfying entertainment featuring a lively hip-hop soundtrack and a bunch of talented young actors led by Adrien Brody and Elise Neal.

Still, playability doesn't always translate into marketability. Producer-distributor Palisades Pictures will have to put marketing muscle behind "Restaurant" if it hopes to plug into the "Swingers" audience. The film, which has been sitting on a shelf for the better part of two years, can at least take advantage of the presence of Lauryn Hill (albeit in a small role), who has won five Grammys since making the film, and Brody, now a recognizable name since "Liberty Heights" and "Son of Sam" last year.

The central figure is Brody's Chris Calloway, a sometime playwright and full-time bartender at J.T. McClure's in Hoboken, N.J. Chris has sworn off alcohol after his latest binge caused him to miss auditions for his own play. What drove him to drink in the first place was his breakup with girlfriend Leslie (Hill) -- and especially his discovery that she cheated on him with a fellow worker and sometime actor Kenny (Simon Baker-Denny).

Chris is therefore surprised to find himself flirting with new waitress Jeannine (Neal), who in a replay of his former relationship is not only black but winds up moving in with Leslie's former roommate, Nancy (Catherine Kellner). Unlike Leslie, Jeannine rushes into intimacy with Chris, to whom she is greatly attracted.

But Chris still carries a torch for Leslie, which leads to major problems in his new relationship. And against his better judgment, he lets line cook Reggae (David Moscow) lead him and another cook (Jesse L. Martin) astray in the raunchier areas in Newark.

Another plot line has Chris sponsoring Stephen (Malcolm Jamal-Warner) to move from waiter to bartender, a job change the white manager is determined to resist.

Thus, Bross and Cudworth establish a milieu wherein a group of interracial employees can seemingly work and pal around together -- and even fall in love -- irrespective of any color line. But when tensions rise and a shocking turn of events precipitates heated passions, bigotry can resurface.

Cudworth's script is not free from head-scratchers. He gives no idea how Leslie could turn out to be so pregnant after having broken up with Chris a relatively short time before or why Chris abruptly quits his job without any visible means of support.

Bross' direction is astute, and Horacio Marquinez's camera work maintains an easy fluidity that transports the viewer about the restaurant and food preparation areas.

Mostly though, the film is designed for its actors to shine -- and they do, especially Brody, Baker-Denny and Neal.


Palisades Pictures

Palisades Pictures in association with Giv'en Films presents a Chaiken Films production

Credits: Producers: H.M. Coakley, Shana Stein, Eric Bross; Director: Eric Bross;

Writer: Tom Cudworth; Executive producers: Mark D. Severini, Gary J. Palermo, Galt Niederhoffer, Michael Brysch; Director of photography: Horacio Marquinez;

Production designer: Steven McCabe; Music: Theodore Shapiro; Co-producer: Jennifer Chaiken; Costume designer: Elizabeth Shelton; Editor: Keith Reamer. Cast: Chris Calloway: Adrien Brody; Jeannine: Elise Neal; Kenny: Simon Baker-Denny; Reggae: David Moscow; Leslie: Lauryn Hill; Quincy: Jesse L. Martin; Stephen: Malcolm Jamal-Warner. MPAA rating: R. Color/stereo. Running time -- 107 minutes.


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