Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jumping the Broom: No White Sharks

JOAQUIN PHOENIX: Yeah, but there's all of this horrible racism that white people don't even recognize. Did you see Jumping the Broom?
I’ve seen it now, Joaquin - thanks to you.

Jumping the Broom was already on my watchlist (along with some 600 other films), but Phoenix’s comments in Interview Magazine boosted it to the top of the list. Didn’t hurt either that pretty much the entire cast is head-shakingly gorgeous. Paula Patton, Meagan Good, Laz Alonso, et al.

The movie is a typical wedding-themed romantic comedy, but despite some 3rd act histrionics, it rises above most of the crap in that crop.

It’s easy enough to figure out the plot from the poster, but what surprised me was how refreshingly easygoing the movie plays. This has a lot to do with the fact that most of the the drama and comedy emerges from the characters, not ridiculous coincidences and misunderstandings. Not all, but most. And again, the cast is gorgeous, as well as likeable and often high-larious. Especially Mike Epps (I would’ve taken him over any of the nominees in the 2011 supporting actor category outside of Christopher Plummer).

Now let’s get back to why Joaquin loved it so...
I feel like all white people have to see the film just because I've never seen a movie in which most of the white characters in the movie were just working. It was fucking great. It was almost comical. There was a scene during the wedding reception, and there are, like, eight white people just carrying stuff. The main white character with some dialogue was the ditzy, stupid assistant. I enjoyed it so much because you never see that. 
Yes. Julie Bowen from “Modern Family” (and Happy Gilmore) fame plays the wedding planner. She’s an inept wedding planner, and throughout the film her character displays an outlandish curiosity in her black clients that usually results in her putting her foot in her mouth – musing about sisters with different skin colors or stroking someone’s weave.

It’s as if she’s in her own separate movie within the movie. To the extent that she is often talking to herself or is the only one on-screen after a scene has ended for the main characters. The filmmakers obviously had a blast turning the tables on the usual race dynamic, and they successfully make this white character “other” in a way we are not used to seeing in the movies.

This subversive twist lends a swiftness and comfort to the primary action in comparison to Bowen’s awkward bumbling. It’s a subversion that sticks out even more in such a conventional genre as the romantic comedy. Compare it, for instance, to the very similar ensemble piece This Christmas, where it’s lone white character is also isolated, but otherwise bland and insipidly at ease with her otherness.

I’m on board with Joaquin. All white people have to see Jumping the Broom. That or someone has to remake The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries with all black actors and a lone white actor in the best friend role.

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