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I saw this five years ago on DVD and grabbed it the other day in the
video store wanting an oldie/goodie. So tired of watching homogenized
films about stealing the groom from the bride; cheating on the
bride-to-be while on a road-trip in wine country; the sad/depressed
bridesmaid/maid-of-honor tragically gets dumped by her escort;
blah-blah-blah. What this film offers us instead is something in the
eyes of four Af-Am buddies who get together before one of them ties the
knot. And there are no race cards pulled. The film does not zero on one
of the characters and their drug/alcohol problem, or gang-related
problemos, or any stereotypical stuff like that. No- what Malcolm Lee
did instead was deliver us with an ensemble cast who just happen to be
black, mix in a smooth R & B soundtrack with it and a give us a fun
It's simple: Harper (Diggs) is on the brink of publishing his first novel with characters loosely based on his friends from college. He flies to New York to get together with his buddies before attending his friend's wedding. During that time, he encounters an old flame that got away; the changes in ideology and values with others. But on the night of the bachelor party, Lance (Chestnut) gets his paws on a copy and reads it, puzzling together the composites while blaming Diggs for cheating with his fiancée.
Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Dashon Howard, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, Sanaa Lathan, and the rest of all the cast get the fattest props because without their acting, this would've been a train wreck. What makes these characters so unique and human is that they're not stereotypical caricature's and each of them all evolve their own style. Taye Diggs is the quiet pragmatist of them all, yet he's no dork. Morris Chestnut is Lance the football "player"/groom-to-be. Harold Perrineau is the hopelessly, pathetically whipped brother-man with heart and Terrence Dashon Howard (from this year's "Crash")steals every scene he's in as the cynical but cool cat musician buddy. Nia Long is the former flame of Taye Diggs with Sanaa Lathan as his girlfriend.
Yeah, the story is a little predictable. Yeah, it's a little lewd and sexist (the scene at the poker table, but I love those lines: "Bite it!", "Grow it!"). The very ending is something we've seen before, yet it's funny anyway. Only problem was that this film was probably labeled as a "black film" at the time and that was probably why it received such poor box office (a'la "Waiting to Exhale", "Boomerang"). Perhaps Hollywood wasn't ready to see that and preferred a movie about a suburban, white, dysfunctional family instead. Oh, and gave it Best Picture, too.
I was surprised to see how little attention this film garnered, despite
amazing cast and intelligent script. Character based scripts walk a
delicate line, but somehow most seem to reap in undeserving praises (St.
Elmo's Fire, The Big Chill). Not to sound like a self-righteous broken
record, but I truly believe "The Best Man" was passed over because it
happened to have an African American cast. It was instantly labeled a
"black" movie, before anyone bothered to watch more than the trailer,
is a crying shame, because what everyone missed out on was a fine film.
The characters range from classic (Morris Chestnut's Lance) to surprisingly fresh (Terrence Howard's Quentin), all with very distinct personalities, yet believable connections. (Am I the only one who is so sick of using the "went to college together" excuse for why some film characters are friends, despite the obvious fact that in reality the "cool rebel" doesn't hang with the "prudish nerd" and so on.)
Not only does the film have refreshing takes on the inter-dimensional relationships of characters, it's not afraid to face the characters honestly, to show each individual's flaws...they have depth, soul, contradictions, much like REAL PEOPLE! Amazing! The themes are universal; friends, love, mistakes, forgiveness. The dialogue is witty, yet not overly done to sound like "movie dialogue" that no one in the real world speaks.
And though the race of the characters does not matter in this movie, I applaud Malcolm D. Lee for writing a film featuring black characters that are all successful, independent and intelligent. No one is rapping or drug dealing, no one is blaming the man for setbacks. The characters actually represent the MAJORITY of the black community, just regular people, living their lives. How refreshing from the Hollywood stereotypes, believed by suburban white America, that every successful black man is a rapper or a basketball player and every other one a criminal or janitor. It's a shame this film didn't make for money, perhaps then we'd see more of this trend, movies based on script rather than race.
Though I loved it, this film probably won't change your life. It's not one that will ever be considered one of the best films ever (though I think it took bold steps in closing the race gap in film). And I'm not saying it's an absolute must-see for everyone. But for discerning viewers with perhaps some taste and hunger for something a little different, I recommend you treat yourself to something that you probably haven't seen in a long time: a simply good movie.
Verrrry nice. I think this is the first good black movie I have seen that didn't need to be but simply was. Well-known, medium-powered Black actors and actresses in a movie that didn't focus on the Black experience. The BEST part... the whole movie was done with thought-out class. The story wasn't about brothers from the 'hood trying to make it in the White Man's world or some racially-charged Spike Lee joint. Think of a great episode of the Cosby Show re-written for an adult audience, bearing a PG-13 rating and you know how you'll feel when you leave the theater. It's about time.
The Best Man was one of my favorite films of 1999. The ensemble cast which includes Taye Diggs and the very sexy Nia Long are all good. The film reminds me of a urban The Big Chill which is cool. Morris Chestnut also makes a good return to film in this heartwarming film. I can't wait to see again and again.
The Best Man was a very exciting, fun, and enjoyable movie-going experience
for me. As a 30 year old African American male, I thought the movie did an
excellent job of exploiting the young, college-grad, working class African
American. This movie has the potential to appeal to a very diverse audience
of males. Conservative females probably will not like this movie that much
because of the strong sexual content. However, the truths of the issues
addressed were so accurately portrayed, that it shouldn't be a total lost
for the conservative female. Also, the entire cast did a great job.
Nevertheless, I most pay special homage to Terrence Dashon Howard (as Quentin). He gave a top-notched, award-deserving performance. If anybody in that movie deserves and award or any kind of special mention, it is by a long shot, Terrence. He made this movie-going experience for me that much more enjoyable. I can't wait to see what he does next. I've never been before, but I am definitely now a Terrence Dashon Howard fan. Furthermore, the entire cast was beautiful; particularly the women. I don't ever before remember seeing so many fine women on screen before at one time. Once out on video, this movie will definitely go in my video library collection.
`The Best Man' is a flawed but generally rewarding romantic drama, featuring
a first-rate cast of likeable, talented actors. The film tells the tale of
a handsome up-and-coming writer whose first novel has just been published on
the eve of his best friend's wedding. The problem is that much of the
material in the book has been drawn from autobiographical sources and now,
as old friends gather for the ceremony, the author and best man, Harper
Stewart, has to face the fallout from some of the less than flattering
portrayals contained therein. In addition, the novel contains the
revelations of a few hitherto well-guarded secrets, some of which bear
directly on the principals involved in the wedding itself.
Ironically, the primary strength of the film also emerges as its overarching weakness. The movie provides so richly textured a depiction of the interrelationships between and among the wide assortment of characters that it alternately straddles the line between fascination and tedium. On the positive side, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee is not afraid to give the characters their due, to allow them to reveal their many-layered personalities in scenes that play out in real-time tempo and rhythm. One appreciates the fact that we are not being rushed along from one highly dramatic moment to another without time to really get to know the characters as people. The counter effect of this, however, is that the film often seems too talky, self-indulgent and dramatically flat, a fact not helped by the excessive 122-minute running time. In addition, the whole novel-publishing aspect of the story seems both unnecessary and contrived, not to mention lacking in credibility since it becomes a bit difficult to believe that, if he were so terrified about his friends discovering his true perceptions of them, Harper would have written the novel in the first place. Moreover, when we hear voice-over recitations of a few sections of the novel itself, we are struck dumb that so badly written and trite a work could be so critically lauded and commercially successful.
However, the film's virtues do, ultimately, outweigh its imperfections. The actors and actresses turn in uniformly fine performances and the film deals intelligently and sensitively with the age-old issues of the fear of commitment and the two-faced attitude many men have when it comes to female infidelity. Lee, within the context of his characters, confronts these issues with subtlety rather than heavyhandedness and the last half hour or so of the film turns into a very moving celebration of the qualities of acceptance, commitment and sacrifice necessary to make a relationship truly work. `The Best Man' may require a little patience at times to get through, but the reward for those willing to give it a try makes it worth the effort.
I was very impressed with The Best Man. As an avid moviegoer, this was the
very first Black movie made in recent decades that was done right. As a
first major endeavor for Malcolm Lee, my hat is off to him for portraying
young, successful, upper-middle class African-Americans in a solid storyline
that was at once heart-warming, funny, serious at times, but light at
others. Overall... simply very well done. The character's development was
executed eloquently and, at times so subtly, I nearly missed some things.
The cinematography, costumes and sets were all as they should be: done with
This young, successful, upper-middle class African-American says thanks for finally doing it right.
The Best Man is a very entertaining romantic comedy. The ensemble cast
clicks and clashes with one another at just the right moments. Taye Diggs's
character, Harper, is charming and charismatic, but WHY would he write a
book that causes pain to those close to him? Is it to enlighten his friends
or to reveal his own frailties? Perhaps, a little of both.
There is a good mix of very funny and also intense emotional moments and the audience is captured; cheering some of the cast and hissing others. It's quite uncanny that transformation occurs for certain characters especially when it's needed. Terrence Howard's character, Quentin, is a prime example. At the beginning of the film Quentin is basically a guy who lacks direction and propriety in his behavior. Over the course of the film, he becomes the voice of wisdom and the glue that holds it together for those closest to him.
Malcolm Lee's directorial debut is quite admirable in this well paced, universally appealing film. Don't miss it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Best Man "is my first buppie (i.e. Black Urban Professionals)
Taye Diggs alone is worth the price of admission -- he is charismatic and captures the screen -- and unlike the choices Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington either had to make or chose to make he is definitely sexy; this is almost a Chick Flick but it's actually about four guys.
The movie was written and directed by a cousin of Spike Lee, who produced it, and oy did it need editing and trimming. Every scene in what is in effect a black, younger "Big Chill" dragged on too long and was mostly too straight-forwardly directed. There is a writing talent in there that needs help in a collaborative art form to be shown to best effect.
The flashbacks didn't make musical sense (except one excellent use of a Stevie Wonder song) or hair style changes so I found it unspecific about time period or college we were flashing back to.
The black audience laughed along with the male/female portrayals so I guess they weren't annoyed by the trash-talking guy who automatically called his bro's "n----r" or the acceptance of double-standards such that strong black professional women with active sex lives are sentenced to be old maids while only submissive or otherwise un-together black women are worth marrying.
The cinematography was rich, particularly lingering on beautiful, chocolate-colored skin.
It felt like a first movie the way first novels do -- but that was part of the theme as it's about a first-time novelist writing a roman a clef. But all the cast and the writer are clearly up and coming talents.
(originally written 11/14/1999)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**** This movie was great. I never get tired of seeing it. I really like Quentin's character. He stole every scene he was in. I kind of wish they had made a spin off with his character because he was really interesting. I would have liked to have seen the relationship he had with his father because from the way him and Harper talked it seemed his father was always on him about choosing a career and the last thing he needed was for Harper to be doing that to him. Like he didn't need another father figure who didn't approve of his lifestyle. With the way the movie ended I think it would have been good to develop a story between him and Shelby. See where that would go. Also show him in his playing ways and also show him playing the guitar a lot more like he was working on putting together a record, the way he played was tight. But if they were to make a movie on just his character only Terrence Howard could play him and only Malcolm Lee would be able to pull off a great job directing it.
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