On the surface, Just Wright is your typical romantic comedy. Girl meets boy, girl likes boy, boy likes her best friend, best friend dumps boy, boy and girl fall in love, boy hurts girl and tries to get back with best friend, boy realizes that he screwed up and loves girl.
You know the drill. But if you decide not to see this film because it follows a formula, I warn you that you will be buying into the bullshit that romantic comedies cannot be interesting and different. I never felt demeaned or talked down while watching this film.
What makes this film so different aside from the fact that it was directed by a woman — Sanaa Hamri (have you listened to my interview with her?) — is that the film stars an African American woman with her name above the title in capital letters who is in her thirties, not a stick figure, is a physical therapist, owns her own home, loves basketball, and is not pining away her nights lamenting over the fact that she doesn’t have a man.
Queen Latifah plays Leslie Wright the lead of this film. I have never see the Queen look better and more comfortable on screen. It’s not surprising since she also produced the film and helped shape it. This film is a good example of a woman engaged in producing work for herself that actually works for her. When women produce and help develop films that they are going to be in, they are inevitably a better fit.
In a nutshell, Queen Latifah runs into NJ Nets star Scott McKnight played by Common. He invites her to his party and she brings along her best friend Morgan played by Paula Patton. Morgan’s job (in her mind) is to become a trophy wife and she turns on the charm and snags Scott in about two seconds. She’s one of those women who makes your skin crawl. They are gorgeous and manipulative and we all have met them before. At first I didn’t understand why Leslie was still friends with Morgan. They are so different. But then I thought more about people who have been friends since they were little. You love them no matter what. Even if they spend their time doing something you find utterly revolting.
After Scott gets hurt Morgan sees her payday disappearing so she bails. Queen Latifah’s Leslie is hired to rehab Scott and, no shocker, they develop feelings for each other. And they have sex. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a sex scene (no matter how chaste it is) with a woman who wasn’t a stick figure? And was a woman of color?
But when Scott recovers, Morgan returns and the Queen being the good friend she is bows out quickly and silently, but angrily. It’s the hard awakening of how people you love let you down constantly.
But this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy if it didn’t have a happy ending so you won’t be surprised that the Queen does get her man. And the thing I liked best about the ending was that it was able to redeem Patton’s character too, make the NBA star pursue his woman and have the girl get her boy on her terms because, you know, she’s damn worth it and he damn knows it.
Just Wright opens nationwide today.