Listen, I know Sex & the City 2 has people talking, but after seeing it (my review will come next week so all my busy ladies out there can see it because TRUST– I got mad spoilers), I can tell you I want the momentum on Just Wright to live a good while longer. Not taking anything away from my dear friend Common on this piece. He does a foine job on his first foray into leading man territory–but my blog is about the ladies, especially those who deserve shine and don’t get it.
That typed, here are my Top 10 Reasons Why I love Just Wright:
10. BRELY EVANS I was pleasantly surprised to find a standout performance by my good friend and former Emage vocalist Brely Evans! She’s been getting steady work in commercials for Amp’d Mobile and Twix. Wonderful to see her flex her comedic and acting skills on the big screen. She plays Latifah’s co-worker, a physical therapist named Sabrina. Look out for her, she’s on the rise!
9. REAL TALK I appreciated the very accurate portrayal of gold-digging females like Morgan, Paula Patton’s character. If you watched the movie and wondered, ‘do women like this really exist?’ the answer is a resounding yes. The recent trend of hoes-turned- authors only scratches the surface. There are beautiful women out there so devoid of self-esteem they’d rather pursue a man instead of a career or an education. And they’ll be completely manipulative and inconsiderate of their friends and family to achieve their goal. Oh-and if there’s a sign of trouble with said man that could interfere with her new lifestyle of leisure? She’ll bounce like a ball.
8. FAMILY FIRST I loved seeing caring, present African American parents in this film. Not a deadbeat to be found. Pam Grier and James Pickens, Jr. are adorable as Leslie’s parents, and Phylicia Rashad turns a few scenes into pure gold with her performance as the mother of Scott McKnight (Common). Which brings me to #7…
7. MOM DUKES Phylicia’s character looks a bit taken aback when her son proposes to a girl either of them barely know. But instead of going all hyperdrama a la Madea on her grown child, she has a private heart-to-heart with her son. She trusts him, and says as much–but is compelled to check in with him because she loves him and wants the best for him. No envy, no malice. A great model for non co-dependent mother-son relationships.
6. THE GROUNDED LEAD I loved that Queen Latifah’s character, Leslie Wright, wasn’t materialistic. She bought a fixer-upper. She drove a beat-up classic car. She could have flossed harder as a head of physical therapy at a hospital, but she spent her money wisely.
5. WORKING SMARTER, MODELED Leslie took a calculated career risk by accepting the offer to train an NBA player back to health after a near career-ending injury. She took the temporary physical therapy job, but arranged to take a leave of absence from her own gig in case things didn’t work out-or so she could return to it after her client was healed. Too many of us see an opportunity and fail to plan for life or income beyond that opportunity. But our shero took the job, exceeded expectations, and got calls from other teams for great full time jobs as a result. Way to put your dreams first, Leslie!
4. NO CATFIGHTS I thought it was very classy for Paula Patton’s character to step aside once she saw Leslie and Scott were in love. After playing them both at different points in the film, she would have only played herself to throw shade at her God-sister, who gave her triflin’ behind a place to live while she made golddigger vision boards! Black on Black female cat fight avoided. Thank you, Mr. Screenwriter, also known as Michael Elliot, my #3 reason!
3. STRONG SCRIPT Michael Elliot, who also penned Brown Sugar, did a great job with writing this film. It’s colloquial at the right points without feeling forced; probably because he used to write for The Source and he knows when it sounds like someone’s trying too hard to be down. He also wrote authentic, emotionally complex female characters, something John Singleton and Spike Lee can’t call strong suits. Whether Leslie’s challenging a rowdy hoop fan or deeply hurt when passed over to wear her grandmother’s earrings, you believe her. When Morgan charms Scott, and then lies to Leslie about having changed her stripes, you hope she means it as you give her the side-eye, because Scott McKnight deserves better.
2. FEMININE SENSIBILITY BEHIND THE CAMERA Props to director Sanaa Hamri and Co-Executive producer Debra-Martin Chase.
Having women of color helm this movie makes all the difference in the world. First of all, people of every size and complexion looked amazing thanks to great costume design and pitch-perfect lighting. We got plenty of beauty shots of all the hoop players; my kind of eye candy. The absence of stereotypical black female mannerisms and signifying, the presence of a love scene with a Black woman of size where she actually wakes up to breakfast from her man the morning after and gets to celebrate are refreshing and sorely needed in more films across the board. There we just some great nuances that I believe are informed by the filter through which these women perceive the world. It was very cool to see a my perspective reflected back to me from the big screen. I mean, isn’t that what we go see these romantic comedies for? That uncanny mix of reality and what-if-that-happened-to-me fantasy?
And the #1 Reason I love Just Wright is…
1. QUEEN LATIFAH For having the Hollywood muscle to get this film made. For having the foresight to surround herself with filmmakers and actors who not only share her vision, but can execute it with her. For supporting diversity in her cast and crew. For representing herself on screen through Leslie Wright: big boned, big-hearted, smart, funny, sexy, goin’ hard for Jersey, for basketball, for Black love. When I look at film trailers for this summer, it’s white-on-white love ad nauseam. I’m not opposed to this image; I’m opposed to its pervasiveness and the obvious lack of balance. Don’t East Indians fall in love? What about Chicanos? Don’t Korean Americans have dream weddings? And are there any Black women who find love without dumbing themselves down or sacrificing the attributes that are must-haves in their partners? The answer to all of these questions is yes. I am grateful to Queen Latifah for answering that last question with passion, truth, and a middle finger to whoever thinks it’s ‘not realistic’. How many Hollywood movies are? And why do the ones without white people at their center have to be? Let me know what you think. And go see Just Wright.