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February 2005

Something New

by Wilson Morales

Something New


Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Sanaa Hamri
Producer: Stephanie Allain
Screenwriter: Kriss Turner
Cinematographer: Shane Hurlbut
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Blair Underwood, Alfre Woodward, Mike Epps, Golden Brooks, Donald Faison, Taraji P. Henson, Wendy Raquel Robinson





In most romantic films, it's mostly about the boy meeting the girl, boy gets the girl, boy loses the girl, and boy gets the girl back. It's been done over and over with different actors and so forth. What we rarely get is the reverse angle. Sanaa Lathan has been a leading lady these last few years and the films she's made recently have been from her character's perspective. In a first for Hollywood, "Something New" is the first film to be produced, written, directed and starring women of color. Not that it should be a factor when deciding to see this film, but with women having a say in the leading character's development, "Something New" offers a fresh take on racism and love and the cast plays their part with so finesse and fun.

Kenya McQueen (Lathan) is a successful accountant who has everything going for her in life. She's about to be become a partner, she's just bought a new house, and she has the best of friends, but what she lacks is a lover. Not that she needs a partner with her ever demanding schedule, but when she agrees to go on a blind date and meets Brian (Baker), it's certainly not what she was looking for. Initially put off by his color (white) and not being the IBM (Idea Black Man) that she was looking for, she gives in to fate when she runs into Brian again and has him redo her garden as he's a landscaper. Over time, Kenya is able to look past color and allow Brain to enter her heart. Her girlfriends Cheryl, Suzzette, and Nedra (Wendy Raquel Robinson, Golden Brooks, Taraji P. Henson) are there for her with advice, while Cheryl's new beau Walter (Mike Epps) shares a male perspective with Brian. With her brother (Faison) always changing girlfriends and her girls looking to find the same as her, Kenya is at peace with herself until the stress of racism at work affects her love life. Not really knowing about Kenya's relationship with Brian, her brother hopes to make Kenya happy when he introduces her to his law school mentor, Mark (Underwood), who everybody sees the perfect IBM for her, including her socially prominent parents Joyce and Edmond (Alfre Woodard, Earl Billings). While Kenya and Brian try to work out their problems, having Mark in her life offers complications she wasn't' expecting.

What works for "Something New" is that the film is totally from Kenya's perspective. We rarely get to see what Brian is feeling and how his surroundings are affected by the relationship. Director Hamri wanted to bring in some realism to the film by showing that love is a feeling regardless of what color the person is and she's done an amazing job. Having done music videos with the likes of Prince and Mariah Carey, Hamri has a flair with color and the outdoor scenery shows what gifts she has. Lathan and Baker make the relationship work because their relationship is not forced, it's slow and tender and the audience needs to believe that the love isn't forced. At the same time, while the film is dramatic to some extent, there are some comedic moments that worth mentioning. For Mike Epps, while playing a small role he's almost unrecognizable because as he plays the role with seriousness. We're not used to seeing Epps carry a straight face, but he does and let's hope he can get more roles like this. This is the second time Woodard has played Lathan, the first being for "Love and Basketball" and the roles are totally different. With this film, Woodard plays her role with much vibrancy. At the end of the day, love beats out any form of challenge and "Something New" offers a chance for you to see something enjoyable, entertaining and maybe realism.