Something New

Starring Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker and Blair Underwood
Directed by Sanaa Hamri
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Distributed by: Focus Entertainment
Running time: 99 minutes
Rating: PG-13 For Sexual References

By Jon Minners

"Go With Your Instincts!!"

My name is Jon Minners and I date black women.  No, it’s not a confession.  I am not at a meeting to help me for “my problem.”  I don’t just look to date black women.  I will date any beautiful girl that shows strength, independence and intelligence, but I am not as close minded as most people when it comes to dating; afraid to cross that dreaded line of color and culture that has already been diluted by the intermixing of African cultures, the intermixing of European cultures, and the cross-pollination that makes for the great melting pot in New York City.  I am not afraid to try something new.

And that is exactly the subject matter this film tackles; going out of the ordinary, not being afraid to follow your heart and getting past the obvious and not-so obvious differences that make us all individuals deserving of one another’s time.  Something New, marking the directorial debut of music video director Sanaa Hamri, is a future romantic classic about finding love when you least expect it.  Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya Denise McQueen, a beautiful L.A. career woman who overcomes obstacles brought about by her race and sex to become a senior manager at a prestigious accounting firm where her continued success puts her on the path of being named partner.  With a successful business career, one thing Kenya is lacking is a successful love life. 

Too anal, to confined, too closed minded and too busy, no one man has been able to pass the muster and have all the qualities Kenya looks for on her mental checklist.  After another Valentine's Day spent working late, Kenya agrees to a blind date with Brian Kelly, played by Simon Baker, who was awesome in Land of the DeadBaker plays a free-spirited landscape architect who turns out to be not exactly what she'd pictured for herself.  He’s white and when they meet at a Magic Johnson’s Starbucks, Kenya must prove she’s black to those around her who she feels may suddenly think less of her with a white man by her side.  The date is a disaster due to her insecurity, but the two meet up again when Kenya needs a landscaper to fix her yard. 

Her girlfriends Cheryl, Suzzette, and Nedra (Wendy Raquel Robinson of The Steve Harvey Show, Golden Brooks of Girlfriends and Taraji P. Henson of Hustle & Flow) are there for her with advice, while Cheryl's new beau Walter (Mike Epps of Next Friday) shares a male perspective, although a strained one, with Brian.  Kenya's socially prominent parents Joyce and Edmond (Alfre Woodard of Love & Basketball and Earl Billings of Fat Albert) and womanizing younger brother Nelson (Donald Faison of Scrubs) also voice their own opinions. But it's when her perfect match, Mark (Blair Underwood of Set it Off), enters the picture that Kenya is truly thrown into confusion. Ultimately, Kenya has to decide for herself and follow her heart - no matter where it takes her.

Something New is something great.  I have seen the film once already and I plan on going again very shortly.  It’s the perfect movie to bring a girl, too.  The characters are well grounded and the comedy element of the film is not silly.  The drama is very real and the subject matter is quite plausible in today’s society; it’s a film that will make you think and if you are with the right girl, share a deep meaningful conversation with over.  The elements of the story are hard to tackle, because we still live in a racist society, although hidden more under the rug, but if you can get past such things as the Black Tax and the fake hair, you will also see that this film is not just about race; it’s about being adventurous and breaking out of your cocoon; adding colors to your life in more ways than one. 

The acting is top notch.  Sanaa Lathan does a great job as always.  Whether it is Love & Basketball, The Wood, Brown Sugar, or this movie, you are guaranteed a stellar performance when she is involved.  Even her role in Alien vs. Predator was likable.  I also enjoyed Baker’s realness.  He didn’t play a character that was totally ignorant to black culture.  He had his curiosities and his ignorance, but he was not oblivious to what was going on around him.  Baker played the role to a tee; strong and confident; not letting something like color blind him.  Mike Epps didn’t play his usual over the top character, which was nice.  Sydney’s friends each had their place in the film and very much reminded me of the show Girlfriends in how they played their roles; amplified by Brooks’ appearance.  Underwood did add a certain presence to the film that not everyone could pull off and worked well in comparison to Lathan’s performance and in contrast to Baker’s role.  And it was great to see Alfre Woodard play Lathan’s mom again in similar vein to the role she played in Love & Basketball

In addition to the characters, there is a lot of color that shows up in the film through flowers and paintings and performances; even nail polish; all adding to the message of the beauty in mixing colors.  There are also beautiful scenes of gardens and other landscapes to take the viewer out of the mundane corporate world.  Of course, you have your sentimental and touching moments that actually do put a tear in your eye and then you have your different types of romantic moments like when Kenya is afraid of spiders and Brian sends her the book Charlotte’s Web with Charlotte crossed out and replaced with her name.  It was something similar to what I have done for one particular girl, the woman I am reminded of whenever I see this film. 

But this movie spoke to me on so many other levels.  Dating black women for the last nine years has been hard.  Watching as the black woman I have become so close to become too afraid to go that next step, because they were worried about what people would think, has angered and frustrated me.  Seeing a film like this one gives me hope that one day attitudes will change; people will not see me from the outside; the color of my skin – they will see the man inside; the man I am.  They will decide to forget all they thought they knew and go with their instincts, go with their heart - do what I have been doing for so long and try something new. 

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