As y’all know, I’m not big into romantic comedies. I tend to find them cliché. However, I do try to give black romantic films/romantic comedies a chance. I do think more black love stories need to be told. A few days ago, I came across the old 1997 (1998?) film “Hav Plenty” on Netflix. The film was part of the big explosion of black movies in the 90’s (“Set It Off,” “Boyz in the Hood,“ “Just Another Girl On the IRT,” “Love Jones,” “Soul Food,” etc.) Unlike the beloved romantic comedy “Love Jones,” Hav Plenty tends to be forgotten.
While I will always heart “Love Jones,” Hav Plenty is a more charming movie. It’s an indie film with an obvious low-budget. The film also tweaks the cliché love story line. Hav Plenty was written, produced and directed by Christopher Scott Cherot:
“Lee Plenty is an almost broke would-be novelist and Havilland Savage is rich and very beautiful woman and his friend. When she invites him to her home for New Year’s Eve, they start to build up a romance.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126938/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl
Cherot does a good job playing the funny and sarcastic Lev Plenty (it’s also bizarre he kind of looks singer Christopher Williams and they have the same first name!) The beautiful Chenoa Maxwell plays Havilland Savage (she currently stars on the reality TV show “Crazy.Sexy.Life”). Throughout the film, the two characters engage in witty banter as a way to hide their true feelings for each other.
The film holds up well after all these years. I kinda wish that the film had been given a wee bit bigger budget. It looks horribly cheap in some scenes. But then again, the charm of the film/genuine moments are due to the lack of budget…so what can ya do. One of my favorite scenes is when Plenty is sitting in the car and looks at Havilland wistfully as she walks away. Damn. We’ve all been there. I still teared up a bit on that part 🙂
It was strange how Cherot disappeared after this film. As a matter of fact, I Googled and found an old “where are they now” article with a focus on Cherot. After reading the update I believe that (1) sometimes folks are meant to do that one amazing thing and that’s it. It doesn’t mean they are a failure, it’s just that they did what they were supposed to do and that’s okay. (2) it speaks to the challenges faced by indie black directors and the fact that things have only gotten a little better (3) perhaps, Cherot forewarned his future in film making with his ending line in Hav Plenty “I got the deal and the girl and I only sold out a little bit. It’s what I wanted…right?” 😉
After I watched Hav Plenty, I also watched “Medicine for Melancholy.” “Medicine…” is a contemporary black love story. It’s another charming indie film by director Barry Jenkins. Medicine for Melancholy came out in 2009. The film follows Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo’ (Tracey Heggins) who decide to spend the day together, after a one night stand. Micah is feeling Jo,’ but Jo’ has a boyfriend. Ouch. I liked “Medicine for Melancholy” because it also tweaked the love story narrative. It’s unique, because yes it’s about two folks jonezing on each other, but the film also explores how black love can be affected by gentrification, racism, and interracial relationships. Particularly, if you are two young black hipsters living in San Francisco. I also liked that tweak of the love story, as we rarely see films about black hipsters/alternative black folks.
My only compliant with both films is the underdevelopment of the black female love interests. The films are still worth checking out, though. Especially for folks like me who aren’t big into romantic movies. You won’t feel too icky, after watching these two films 🙂