Monthly Archives: November 2013

Review: The Best Man Holiday

The Best Man HolidayLet’s get this out of the way first — “The Best Man Holiday” cast is one of the most attractive in cinematic history. It’s rare when the actors actually look better in a sequel, but even rarer is a sequel that’s better than its predecessor.

Initially, “The Best Man Holiday” seems like a dubious followup. It’s been 14 years since the original “The Best Man,” so why resurrect the plot now? But that decade and a half gap is crucial because when we last saw the friends, they were reeling from Harper Stewart’s (Taye Diggs) not-so-fictional novel that nearly derailed his best friend Lance Sullivan’s (Morris Chestnut) marriage. Add a few years, and the conflicts are about a lot more than who slept with whom. Whether it’s a difficult pregnancy, financial woes, inability to commit to a real relationship, past secrets being dredged up or even illness, the friends need each other now more than ever, whether they like it or not. Their past and current problems make their bond a lot deeper and the film much more nuanced.

There’s a lot of drama in this film but also a lot more heart. What keeps the characters and the plot together is the cast’s authentic chemistry. Director Malcolm D. Lee has achieved a rare feat: it’s hard enough to find a pair of actors with great will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry like Diggs and Nia Long (who plays powerhouse Jordan Armstrong), but he managed to put together nine actors that seem like real friends. “The Best Man Holiday” is one of the atypical films where an ensemble cast isn’t just a gimmick but a strength.

The melodrama of the film isn’t anything new, especially with the added tension of the holidays, but the actors make it unique. Terrence Howard, who was a standout of the original “The Best Man” as player Quentin Spivey, once again adds a sense of levity to the otherwise heavy subject matter with his great comic timing. He and Melissa De Sousa (as drama queen and now Real Housewife Shelby) have caustic flirting down to a hilarious art. Yet it’s reluctantly charming Diggs who grounds the film as a conflicted protagonist that wants to stay out the drama even as he creates it. Harper’s friendship with Lance is still one of the most complex male bonds on screen, and Diggs and Chestnut convey the awkwardness yet love for each other well.

“The Best Man Holiday” shouldn’t work. It’s a long overdue sequel with an occasionally cheesy holiday theme and more actors than presents under the tree. Yet Lee cares about these characters too much to make them cliche, and the cast acts with passion. It’s equal parts sexy (see the sequined blazer dance scene above) and tearjerker sad but ultimately sincere.

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Review: About Time

I reviewed “About Time” for Vox Magazine. You can read my review at the website or below:

ABOUT TIME

“About Time” is not the Richard Curtis film we know and love. Yes, a charming Brit is the hero. Yes, he falls in love with an audacious American. And yes, there is even a hilariously botched wedding. Yet “About Time” shirks the romantic foppery that initially made the director famous and hones in on the emotional sincerity that makes his films classics.

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is your typical maladroit romantic, but he has inherited a gene that runs in the men of his family — the ability to time travel. Step into any closet (there appears to be a surplus of them in England according to this film), and he can go back to any point in his life and relive or rectify the situation. At first, Tim uses his powers for love by fixing ruined flirtations. Until he meets the wallflower Mary (Rachel McAdams in her third time travel romance) and sees no need to change the situation but only to perfect it.

Their courtship is straightforward, as if Curtis has grown bored with the back-and-forth of his past films, and consequently Mary feels undeveloped. Fortunately, McAdams’ natural charisma saves her character from being just another girlfriend.

However, “About Time is not a romantic comedy but a sardonic look at life. Just because Tim is a time traveler does not mean he escapes quotidian pleasures and plights. Gleeson keeps his dilemma down to earth by going from bumbling Hugh Grant stand-in to one of Curtis’ most fully realized protagonists. He has endearingly awkward comic timing but can also convey subtle tenderness and honesty.

A great supporting cast bolsters Gleeson. A surly Tom Hollander plays Tim’s London roommate and adds a good dose of snark to tone down the occasional sentimentality. Yet it’s the delightfully eccentric Bill Nighy, as Tim’s dad, who elevates the film. Their father-and-son dynamic feels authentic even if the reason for it isn’t.

The time travel premise seems like a gimmick because it is. Yet Curtis uses it to mine life for its daily profundities and ultimately makes one of his most realistic films.