Sept 99: The Arrangement

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by Carl Davis
Written by: H. H. Cooper
Directed by: H. H. Cooper
Produced by: Dave Neilsen, Sarah Gyllenstierna, H. H. Cooper
Dir. of Photography: Doug Shannon
Production Designer: Kristen Johnson Phifer
Cast: Billie James, Keskhemu, Keith Davis

To most men there is only one answer to the eternal question: Would you tell her you cheated? Jake, the honest driven fiance of LuAnn in H. H. Cooper's film does the opposite. He admits that he cheated setting off a sex driven odyssey that none would suspect.


Jake, the apparently well off children's book writer, felt sex with another woman would always be in the back of his mind. Now that he's got it out of his system they can be married. Being fair and equitable he gives LuAnn permission to even the score so they can begin their life together on a clean slate.

The film follows LuAnn through her evolution from a hurt woman trying to get over the betrayal to a strong sister who takes control of her love and life. She loves Jake and at first, does not want to have sex with another. She goes through a long drought while dating an assortment of undesirable men. There is a hilarious scene when a football player puts her hand on "IT" during dinner. Her brother in law tries to seduce her. She can not find anyone worthy of her affection.

Eventually Jake has his best friend arrange a date between LuAnn and an acquaintance, Marcus. Luann and her prearranged beau eventually do it. In a moment of passion he unconsciously lets it slip that Jake is a lucky man. LuAnn is taken back but this allows her to focus on taking back control of her life.

She keeps the arrangement secret and starts a budding relationship with Marcus. She tells her hypocritical family to stay out of her affairs. She brings Marcus to a family gathering and kisses him passionately when Jake enters. Jake is enraged and everyone is frazzled. She admits she knew of the arrangement making Marcus feel used and empowering her self by no longer playing Jake's games.

They still love each other. LuAnn's mother helps her see that true love is not fickle. It survives all. LuAnn comes to terms with Jake's infidelity. Jake sees his errors. Love conquers and they consummate the beginning of a new relationship and cut to their honeymoon.


Comedy, wit, fine acting and great production values made this film a pleasure to watch. Billie James is great as LuAnn and Keskhemu, a convincing Jake. Set in the Black upper class it's a world we rarely see. Almost everyone wore button down shirts and spoke perfect English. No one is trying to be a player or jiggy. Now that's keeping it real! They just want to be happy. Unlike most on screen African American Romances, we actually see and feel why they love one another.


The Arrangement has an interesting brand of sexual politics. It is very moralizing in this day and age of anything goes. LuAnn's sister is in an open marriage that falls apart when the responsibility of a child comes. Her father's past affair comes to haunt her. Her extremely promiscuous girlfriend fines peace in a plutonic relationship. La Vida Loco is a poor substitute for Love.

The Arrangement works on several levels. It's humor, honesty and intelligence made it one of my favorite festival pieces. One will be tempted to take a fresh look at past and future relationships. I look forward to seeing future work from H.H. Cooper.


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