Okay that title is pretty vague and I will be the first to say that this blog does not get a crazy amount of traffic, so being vague is not a good thing. I love the blog: http://www.shadowandact.com/ . Not because the title derived from my favorite author, but because the blog has the most information on cinema that caters to a diverse audience. In other words, if I want a Black movie, or I want to know about a movie filmed, written and produced by those not of European ancestry, then I can find the info there. I tend to think I have a pretty good ear, for books, and an okay eye for film. What I have been looking for though from S&A is an article, or a summary on why is it that Black people can’t create a film like It’s Complicated. I’ve made similar comments after watching films like The Fountain, or The Notebook, but I won’t rehash those discussions here. I will, but in a different way.
The story of It’s Complicated is the basic relationship film and while it does not break new ground, what White movies (I guess this can’t really be considered a “White” movie since I’m watching it right, but you know where I’m going with this.) utilize mimesis in a way that Black films just can’t seem to capture. This is what I mean: the story in It’s Complicated is about ’50 something’ Empty Nesters who are experiencing the continued emotional ramifications of divorce. These characters have depth, not because of abuse, and not because of some traumatic situation that has destroyed the household. There aren’t any middle aged women or men burning up cars and clothes or cutting couches with chainsaws. A very careful, patient narrative is allowed to develop around Meryl Streep’s character and her complex adjustment to a divorce that took place ten years prior.
In the movie that plot is held together by the three children, an older girl who is engaged to be married, a middle child/boy who has finished his master’s degree and an younger daughter who is leaving the home and heading to college. Also creating tension in the film is Alec Baldwin’s character, the ex-husband who realizes his mistakes in forcing his wife to walk away from their union. the film is a comedic, well paced film that even allows the often awkward Steve Martin to be made into the sympathetic “new” guy in Streep’s life who creates her epiphany. There are several scenes that capture the uncomfortable nature of dating and affairs and those scenes make you wonder about the golden years and how odd it must be to have to start over, after years of parenting and life in general. No spoilers here, but I highly recommend the film. It’s not really a chick flick; I think it’s more of a contemplative focus on how the simple emotional attachments people share often contribute to the most difficult parts of living.
What does this have to do with Black films? Once again, at the end of watching It’s Complicated, I attempted to find a comparison based on these qualifications:
1. Primary characters are all over 50.
2. There weren’t any abuse, alcoholism, shattered childhoods, dysfunctional relationships in the film.
3. The group of women in the film who came together to talk did not diminish the role of men and disparage them in any way.
4. The ending was not resolved with the Electric Slide, but with the honest attempt to reclaim life as an Empty Nester.
5. Did I forget to mention that the over 50, pushing 60 crew was still having sex? Hot, passionate, thick bellied, saggy bottomed sex (an oxymoron? yes. once again go with it.)
6. The young people are not the focus of the film, but the accessories.
7. Finally, the film is not resolved by marriage. Which isn’t a bad thing in Black films considering the marriage rate in reality.
After thinking for several minutes, there wasn’t a single Black film that met these categories. I’ve said this before, is the state of Black America such, that to copy Black life in film is to state that there aren’t any happy, well adjusted over 50 Black women dating comfortably and relearning themselves? Where are our happy, pull at the heartstrings films, that aren’t about tragedy in the worst way? I’m having a really hard time finding them. Maybe someone can tell me where the Black version of It’s Complicated is. I’d really appreciate that.
The film is directed by Nancy Myers and has a great soundtrack. It also has a very funny video chat scene. While the title seems to be derived from the once popular Facebook status, the movie gives you something to discuss and think about. For me that thing to think about was, I’d really like to see Phylicia Rashaad, Courtney Vance and maybe Charles Dutton in something like this…no Morgan Freeman though.