March 2002
Looking for a mate in your 30’s ain’t no joke. : In fact in 30 Years to Life, it’s almost scary!

Reviewed by Kellye Whitney

Looking for a mate in your 30’s ain’t no joke. - In fact in 30 Years to Life, it’s almost scary!

Turning 30 must be reeeee-ally traumatic. For the six friends in “30 Years to Life” there are few meaningful relationships, almost no career comforts, tons of commitment phobias, and very strange dates with more than their share of toes. The list goes on, but the issues Writer/Director Vanessa Middleton deals with in 30 Years, friendship, fulfillment, and honesty, are universal to any upwardly mobile person, of any ethnicity.

30 Years is Middleton’s first feature film, but you couldn’t tell. It’s easy to see how Middleton made her name writing for shows like “Cosby,” “Hanging With Mr. Cooper,” and “Saturday Night Live.” The script touched on problems with self-esteem and the ever American dilemma of living or killing a dream even as the storyline of a series of lonely 30th birthday parties played itself out like a discordant trumpet.

With movies like “The Perfect Storm,” “The Best Man,” and “Swimming with Sharks” between them, the veteran acting cast easily and no doubt gratefully, stretched outside the mold Hollywood has set for African-American movie stars. Meaning, there were no gangsters, crack heads, football heroes, or gratuitous sex/tit shots. Yummy Allen Payne (Malik) looked fabulous as always, and SNL comedian Tracy Morgan (Troy) kept the laughs coming with one hilarious one-liner after another as a hapless, hard-luck case. More interesting were Paula Jai Parker (Stephanie) and Erika Alexander (Joy), both of who have made a career of acting wild, being fast, and talking even faster. Thanks to some lightening quick dialogue, both enjoyed their share of wisecracks. But Parker, as an overweight real estate agent, and Alexander as a terminal monogamist longing to get married, turned in rather sensitive portrayals of women in love with scared and often ridiculous men.

Middleton very cleverly explores the changing roles of men and women without taking sides from the male or female perspective. Should a woman sink her career aspirations and perhaps adopt the psuedo-morals of an alley cat in order to catch a man, or is it best to be yourself and let the chips fall where they may? T.E. Russell (Leland) certainly had no idea what to do when he accidentally proposed to 4-year love interest Joy, but Middleton gave the audience a laugh a second as he sweated bullets and blundered his way in and out of trouble. Figuratively speaking, getting married can’t be any harder than watching this bespectacled bull finesse his way around the china shop.

30 Years doesn’t offer a clear cut answer to the 30-year’old-jinx/relationship dilemma, probably because there isn’t one. Men and women are under so much pressure these days, and the good Lord only knows how much random madness can ensue when you’re trying to keep a love partner happy! Take Melissa de Sousa’s (Natalie) brittle corporate diva for instance. Natalie struggles endlessly to understand why she, with her fabulous job, fabulous office and fabulous body can’t even get a date, let alone a fiancé. Middleton’s clever direction and de Sousa of The Best Man and TV’s The Street, manages to be both grand and pathetic all at once. Thank God for your girl, who despite or perhaps in spite of the wretched sound made by thick thighs in stockings, can cook like a gourmet to feed the man you are trying to catch.

Yep, there is definitely something to be said for good friends. Not to mention enjoying the green grass on your side of the fence. If you are lucky enough to find someone in African-American in Manhattan who knows that you don’t like olives in your salad, it’s best to keep them. Losing them might take more than your heart, it might take your apartment because everyone knows – committed relationships are like renting with the option to buy!


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