In Something New
, a keenly observed urban romantic comedy marking the feature debuts of music video director Sanaa Hamri
and TV writer Kriss Turner
, a black career woman looking for her IBM (as in Ideal Black Man) is thrown for a bit of a loop when her love match turns out to be decidedly Caucasian.
She's not the only one in for a surprise. Those overly acquainted with a genre that keeps on trotting out all the usual suspects and situations will be pleased to know that there's still a little life left in that tried and true person-meets-person/person-loses-person/person-gets-person format.
While it might share some thematic elements with last year's "Guess Who?" the Focus Features release generally steers away from broader comedy in favor of grounded characters and thoughtful performances.
The refreshing results should please its targeted female demo in the market for a heart-shaped February confection with something more substantial than a mushy center.Sanaa Lathan
capably anchors the picture as Kenya Denise McQueen, the attractive but uptight product of an academic family who's a senior manager at a high-profile accounting firm where she's on the verge of making partner.
Making partner in her personal life is another story. So far Kenya has been content to cocoon in the beige-on-beige living room in her newly purchased home, but at the urging of her girlfriends, she's agreed to meet a blind date at the Magic Johnson
As it turns out, Brian Simon Baker
(late of The Guardian), is a spirited, nice guy, but the fact that he also happens to be white makes her uncomfortable. The date doesn't go well but Kenya, upon subsequently finding out that he's a landscape architect, hires him to do something with her sadly neglected backyard.
Suffice it to say, Brian ultimately succeeds in cultivating Kenya's garden.
Using a Detroit Free Press statistic that 42.4% of black women have never been married as a jump-off point, screenwriter Turner has come up with a scenario that's peppered with knowing details about everything from hair extensions to proper Cotillion etiquette.
Although the script could have gone somewhat easier on the speechifying and Baker's character seems a little too good to be true, it's still refreshing to see a female-oriented vehicle that has actually been written and directed by women, rather than by men who think they know what their audience wants to hear and see.
There's also a palpable chemistry between the likable leads (another rare thing in too many purported romantic comedies) while Moroccan-born Hamri's vibrant visuals are set against real-life Los Angeles locales -- from Baldwin Hills to Venice to downtown's Biltmore Hotel -- that have a lot more flavor than the usual tour stops.
Focus Features presents a Stephanie Allain
Director: Sanaa Hamri
Screenwriter: Kriss Turner
Producer: Stephanie Allain
Executive producers: Preston Homes, Joe Pichirallo
Director of photography: Shane Hurlbut
Production designer: Mayne Berke
Editor: Melissa Kent
Costume designer: Hope Hanafin
Music: Wendy Melvoin
and Lisa Coleman
Kenya Denise McQueen: Sanaa Lathan
Bryan Kelly: Simon Baker
Walter: Michael Epps
Nelson McQueen: Donald Faison
Mark Harper: Blair Underwood
Joyce McQueen: Alfre Woodard
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 100 minutes