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Stella gets her groove back, alright, but the film is still in need by the time you get to the end credits. Angela Bassett gives a kick-ass performance in the title role as a fortysomething woman who can't decide what to do when she falls in love with twenty-one year-old Taye Diggs while on vacation at a resort in Jamaica. Do 'im is what I say: if a woman like Bassett looks that good at the age of forty she deserves the best of everything. Besides, Diggs doesn't look nearly young enough for the part, and that keeps reality at bay for the two and some odd hours that the film runs at. The scene where teenage girls get in line behind the couple at a movie theatre and give Stella dirty looks for robbing the cradle always puzzles me; if I were that young an age and found myself standing behind Angela Bassett I'd be asking her what kind of skin creams does she use and does she work out and maybe there might be a portrait hidden in her attic that has all her sins hanging off it? Whoopi Goldberg gives the best and funniest performance in the film, but even she can't prevent the script by Ronald Bass and Terry McMillan (upon whose novel this is based) from seeming like it's two or three drafts short of being finished. Watch it if only for a great soundtrack and some beautiful photography of Jamaica's beaches.
Angela Bassett ("Waiting to Exhale") is talented and buff as Stella, a single mother/career woman who's in need of a vacation. Stella decides to head for Jamaica with her best friend, Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg in a fine supporting role). Stella meets 20-year-old Winston (Taye Diggs). They fall in love, in-spite of Stella's emotional insecurities. Terry McMillan adapted from her novel based on her real-life experience. I hate to say this, but unlike "Waiting to Exhale," this overlong movie barely holds up to the book, because of too many plot holes and too many unnecessary characters. On the contrary, Diggs turns in an impressive performance as well. My evaluation: ** out of ****.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On a rainy, dreary day recently I popped this movie in looking for light
and comedic entertainment. I was disappointed. The movie starts with
Stella in a bad mood, with a magnificent job and a home that I noticed was
so nice, it had a reflecting pool. I watched as Stella moaned and
complained about her ex, her job, her life, ad nauseum. Angela Bassett's
portrayal of Stella was one of anger however I admired her buff physique,
left over from her Tina Turner portrayal which was excellent. So I tried
find sympathy for Stella. However, the director never gave we, the
any reason or background to feel any sorrow or empathy for Stella. She
it all. When Stella takes her vacation to Jamaica and meets William
Shakespeare (Taye Diggs), it was hard to work up any enthusiasm because
was so angry, angry at the world. However, the scenery in the film was
breathtaking and the age difference between the two seemed a bit much but
did not interfere with what could have been a great love story. It
Stella more than it did me. Still Stella remained ungrooved.
Caution ***Movie Spoiler*** Upon returning home from a dream vacation, Stella loses her job and upon the advice of her good friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg), goes back to Jamaica which told me that losing her job did not affect her high-flying lifestyle. If only Stella appreciated her circumstances as much as I did. In summary, I saw Stella as not having a "groove" and Bassett carried her character through the movie with such anger, I felt myself recoiling from her verbal barbs and angry displays toward William, his parents, and all those around her. Only when she finds out Delilah's secret, does she drop the angry attitude and pity party to help someone else. Because we were never given a reason to feel any compassion or sympathy with Stella, it is my opinion that Stella Never Had a Groove to get back. Bassett stomped her way through this role as if Ike were chasing her in that other movie; and I would have much rather had more access to Delilah's world. Taye Diggs did what he does best which is to look great. All in all, How Stella Got Her Groove Back is less that what I expect from actress Angela Bassett.
Angela Bassett does an outstanding job. To those of you who can't understand why Stella needs her groove back, you have only to look up the word mundane. No matter how much money you have or Chanel suits you own that doesn't mean you have true companionship. We all want a real connection someone to hold us, love us and tell us it will get better. And that transcends age and socio economics. Sometimes people are right on time. No one can go through the world completely alone. We never know what or how long any relationship will last so I suppose the most important thing is to seize the day. Make your own reality and Stella does that with dignity and with pride and admittedly with hesitation and fear. That's the sign of a very real character! Someone who is vulnerable. Someone you can understand even if you're not in the same situation.
Stella pushed the envelope-- and in that, if only that, it has merit. By showing that an all black cast can attract a wider audience (and interestingly, it's usually white folks who don't like the movie.. one begins to wonder why?) and a black actress, Angela Bassett, prodigiously talented, brilliant, and as a bonus, beautiful, can convincingly portray a woman who is torn between what she has always been taught is right, and what her heart is telling her is right.. is a timeless story.
Add to that the crackling comic relief of Whoopi Goldberg, and two very funny sisters representing opposing views and lifestyles, and you have a nice mix. More envelope pushing? One of the sisters is married to a white guy -- nothing is made of it, it just is. The point made, of course, is that interracial marriage isn't something odd or different or in need of explanation or commentary. One of the better ways to attack institutionalized racism, racism that is bred into us as we grow up, is to show images that combat those assumptions and to make those images as nonchalant and matter of fact as possible. This was done very well in Stella.
Of course, if one doesn't like romantic comedy, or if one nurses prejudice, consciously or subconsciously, the movie won't be appealing.
I, however, found it charming, funny, enjoyable, and delightful. I loved Angela Bassett's performance, I am in awe of her talent and her beauty (yes, a woman can appreciate another woman's beauty.. we need not attack each other, we can be sisters, can we not?) and I loved Whoopi Goldberg's comic relief. Taye Diggs? Well, we shall see. He's certainly easy on the eye, and he did a credible job with his role. I'd like to see him in more before I decide if he's good, great, or somewhere in between. Based solely on Stella, I think he's good, and very promising.
The movie did not track the book as much as I would have liked -- I don't want to say in what ways because I don't want to ruin it for those of you who are going to go and read the book.
Do read the book if you haven't -- it's excellent, wonderful reading. My favorite, in fact, of Terry McMillan's work.
Another point; Stella is depicted a stock broker. Some found that to lack credibility. Why? Are those folks trying to suggest that there are no women or black women stock brokers? I can tell you that there are, and introduce you to a few if you'd like -- I know several of them. And money? Yes, there actually are well to do, single, black, mothers who are professionals in a number of fields including law, medicine, academia, business, government -- everywhere. Not enough, but they're there, and they're forging the way for more to come.
Someone else said that it wasn't credible that the Winston character would fall so quickly in love with the Stella character. Why not? Stella was portrayed as beautiful, intriguing, very intelligent, she looked no older than 25 -- why would a 20 year old not want to be with a woman like that? Why would any man not want to be with someone like that? Of course it was credible.
The movie was humorous (remember Ms. Thang "How nice that you're visiting with your mother." rofl, that was hysterical.. "oh yes, I've missed my mother very much".. (pause)(wicked grins followed by a long kiss that had nothing maternal about it) .. as Ms. Thang flounces away, having received her comeuppence very nicely. I guffawed and loved it.
I'm truly mystified by those who didn't like the movie. I admit to its flaws, and the fact that it didn't track the book in some ways.. but it had so very much going for it.. everything from the envelope pushing of interracial marriage, and the age difference.. where usually it is the man who is older and professional, and the woman who is younger, and no one finds that odd or different. How many men are married to women 20, 30, years their junior? Society says nothing about that.. A 20 year difference? How often do you see a 45 year old man with a 25 year old woman? Every day, everywhere. It's something that goes without comment.
Here we have it reversed, and we see how hard it is for the female character to break the bonds of that double standard. But she does. Isn't that a role model, a positive break from the typical older male/younger female scene that we usually see and take in stride as completely acceptable and quite normal. Reverse it and everyone gasps.. "Isn't she old enough to be his MOTHER?!?!" While the men who are old enough to be their wives' fathers (and grandfathers) pass without a blink of the eye, without a comment.
But the social commentary, the envelope pushing -- it was there and it was good, but the movie's humor, the love story, the laughter.. that's what made the movie great fun. It could have just won points on social commentary, but it didn't.. it won them on purely cinematic/acting grounds. The fact that it also contained social commentary was simply a huge bonus.. and we know that psychologically, folks are more likely to absorb social commentary when it is presented in a way that isn't a polemic, a lecture, a heavy-handed "after school special."
My vote.. On the book- 9/10 On the movie 8/9 or better.
Comments on this overly long review? > I don't usually come back to see how my comments are received. Flame mail? Please don't, because it's a negative waste of time.. but real discussion I always welcome, whether the other person agrees or disagrees, as long as the issue is discussed, and personal attacks are not made.
Someone suggested watching White Palace, and said that it is the same story, but grittier, with Susan Sarandon (a great actress) and James Spader. I think I'll rent that next ;)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Picture if you will, Stella (Angela Bassett). She's single...she's
rich...she's got a great job--but, alas, no "on paper" man in her life
that will make her feel complete. So, she goes off to Jamaica with her
oldest and dearest friend (Whoopi Goldberg) in desperate search of her
"groove." In the land of sand and sunlight, she happens upon Winston
Shakespeare (Taye Diggs), who is half her age and finer than frog hair,
and she is in a dilemma about exactly how she should handle the
situation. I wish I had her problems, trust me.
If I were Stella and had someone like Winston chasing after me, I'd be on him faster than a duck on a june bug...however, practical Stella is all caught up on the age thing...is anyone still with me? He's hot, he's young, and he's after me, and I'm going to QUESTION that? My first question would be where do we put the furniture, but, no--it takes the death of a good friend to make her embrace the fact that she should give into something as, uh-hem, debatable as Taye Diggs...OK, ladies, are you with me? In unison--"GIVE ME A BREAK!" If you're still on the fence, rewind and watch that pool scene again. I'm waiting. OK--now, we're all on the same page.
This premise is flawed as flawed can be. I don't care if she has a child--any woman with a child should have her thinking cap firmly in place atop her head to know if he was a true, purebred dog, you'd have known it by the next morning, and still wow your girlfriends with the tale. He has been nothing but gallant, and yet we're supposed to sympathize with her...I don't think so.
Stella creates her own drama while most of us would have been riding off into the sunset. In the end, the Terry McMillan autobiographical version didn't go EXACTLY as planned, but, hey, in a perfect world Stella had it going on from the get go. The "groove" could be, and in the movie was, reaffirmed in the shower. If my only problem is we don't like the same movies, I can assure you I would have forgotten about it by the first shower scene. But, if having to see Regina King made it all work out, I'm all for it. She's great as always.
The first time I saw this movie I wanted to immediately hop a plane to Jamaica! I don't think it was the "meet the man of my dreams" part, but the scenery. It was just breathtaking (although the men aren't too bad to look at either!). As for the story, it was a good distraction from typical reality, because, let's face it ladies, we believe that doesn't happen everyday (especially to ourselves). The soundtrack was another good part of the movie, I just loved it. This movie is the kind that gives you hope for true romantic love, but in this cynical day and age most people don't let themselves be pulled in, or fooled, by the seemingly unrealistic situation. For those of us with a little romance still left, this is a wonderful movie. For those without, I'm sorry. (These are my thoughts excluding the latest headlines, I don't want to spoil my original feeling toward the movie).
Angela Bassett delivers another wonderful performance (is she not one of the
greatest actors of out time?), but unfortunately, it's not enough to raise
this movie to the level of greatness I expected from it.
There's no doubt, the film is beautiful to look at and the performances are good all around. But the script is lacking that certain something that makes you believe the whys and hows. We can certainly understand why Stella fell in love with that 20 year old--he's gorgeous, sincere and very mature for his age. But the crucial information we're missing is why he falls for her.
He approaches her because of her physcial beauty, but stays for an unknown reason. Why WOULD a 20 year old be so willing to pursue a woman twice his age after a casual meeting? Why is he so mature and understanding at such a young age? We'll never know and that's what kept me from believing this film.
Another problem is the seemingly pointless demise of one of the characters (I won't say who). This event didn't carry the story forward and acted more as a detractor from the plot that anything else. It should have been used to help the other characters develop, but it instead that little subplot dissolved into oblivion.
Overall, I would certainly recommend Stella. It was an enjoyable and sincere story. But it could have been so much better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Angela Bassett was, of course, well-known by the time she made this
film, and here she proved once again why she is one of America's better
actresses. But the real story here was the film debut of Taye Diggs. As
an old white guy, I first saw this film when it premiered on cable, and
I thought Diggs was certain to become a popular actor. Now, 25 films
later, not to mention an active career on prime time television, Diggs
has become just that -- a fine and respected actor with a captivating
on-screen persona that just always seems to work.
Here it's the 21 year old Jamaican fellow who seduces (and I mean that in the best sense) the 40 year old businesswoman from San Francisco. The romance sizzles, despite reservations, while Whoopi Goldberg provides a bit of light-hearted comedy. The question, of course, is whether the age difference will divide two people in love. And the film does keep you guessing as to which possible ending it will be.
Diggs' character's last name here is Shakepeare, and while this film hardly reaches the level of a Shakespearean tale, it's engaging, romantic, and great fun. But that doesn't mean it's all love and roses. True love never is, and meanwhile Whoopi's character is dying. So this is not just another feel good movie; there's some drama here, including making a relationship with a diversity of ages work.
I give this film much higher marks than the overall rating here. It's easily worth a "7".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the obvious flaws in this film, one thought kept occurring to
me each time Bassett and Diggs were on screen together: There are a lot
of couples in this world who deserve each other less than these two
would. Most marriages and long-term partnerships are safe and sterile
in both how they were formed, and how they are lived. Most people date
into their twenties or early thirties and just say, "aw hell. I guess
it's time to settle down with so and so", and a boring relationship is
made. With Stella and Winston, the relationship is a huge risk for many
reasons. The two must really care a lot about one another in order for
things to have gotten as far as they did. But, in the end, this is pure
fiction. Most people would never take this chance, or even be in a
position to make it. So, we are left with a romance between two
attractive leads and some lush and expensive locations. A 20 million
dollar romance novel played out on the screen.
Are there problems? You betcha. Characters like Winston's parents are hardly touched, and one would figure at his age they would still be able to keep him away from Stella and her life in California. Did anyone buy the subplot about Stella building furniture? Me, neither. Would more of Stella's family and friends object to this relationship? Most definitely. Had she only hooked up with him in Jamaica and left it at that, she would have been celebrated by all. But in real life, more than just one sister would have made objections. And certainly her ex-husband wouldn't have been so understanding about having his son living under the same roof as this young stud.
But heck. Most of this film's target audience probably got what it paid for, and the film was profitable. The romantic scenes between the leads are steamy, if a bit too brief, and the locations and photography are excellent. Do Stella and Winston make a believable couple? For the movies, sure. But in real life, not so much. 6 of 10 stars.
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