It was Saturday night and I was seated for the 7:00 PM screening at Southpoint Cinema in Durham, NC. Anticipation does not begin to explain what I was feeling. A few months earlier while seated for Pride and Prejudice at the same theater, I watched the trailer of Something New and was overcome with excitement. Fast forward two months. On opening night, Friday, February 3, 2006, I received two separate calls from friends telling me I HAD to go see the movie. Now this would not have been a miraculous event had it been ANY other two friends, but these two generally agreed on very little. So I was immediately even more psyched to see Something New.
After I saw the movie, it instantly became one of my all time favorites. Aesthetically it is gorgeous. I think director Sanaa Hamri’s background in music video added an extra something to the visuals. And the table scene in the beginning, with the camera circling the table is AWESOME! You feel like you are in the middle of the women’s conversation.
The screenplay is something special. Writer Kriss Turner transforms the basic rom com into a film that addresses issues of race and class in the context of a romantic relationship. The premise is simple, but complicated. Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya, a black, professional woman who is very reserved. Brian, played by Simon Baker, is a white gardener/landscape artist who is a free spirit. She doesn’t do dogs, he owns one. They are complete opposites.
Something New effectively addresses the issues and adversities that a mixed race couple might face. I loved the “Black Tax” references, although honestly, I had never heard the term before (but was familiar with the concept). One of my favorite scenes occurs in the grocery store where Kenya wants to talk about her hard day and Brian isn’t in the mood for another race chat. The question of right and wrong is never debated, that’s your opinion, but the honest dialogue is refreshing.
When Mark (Blair Underwood) enters the picture, he and Kenya look like the perfect couple. He understands her world, moreso than Brian. He is a much better fit, not because he is black, but because he is wealthy, educated and is a member of the high society community Kenya is accustomed to. But he does not have her heart. And ultimately that’s the only thing that counts.
The only gripe I have about Something New is the limited amount of screen time dedicated to Kenya’s girlfriends played by Golden Brooks, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Taraji P. Henson. Although the opening table scene was great, I would have liked more interaction with them. However, they did deliver some of the more comedic moments in the film.
The flaws in Something New are overshadowed by what works in the film. As the first major studio film directed, produced (Stephanie Allain), written by and starring women of color, I am proud of Something New. I am inspired by it and the work these amazing women put into making this historic film. It is the epitome of Black Herstory.
Something New is currently streaming on Netflix.