A second look at ‘Love Jones’

When Love Jones came out, I was six years old.  Two years ago one  Saturday I watched the whole movie in bite-sized YouTube chunks for the first time. Naturally, like all* black women, I fell in love.

But time has passed. We’re in an economic recession. Come February, Starz will soon no longer distribute its films on Netflix. This begs the question, does Love Jones hold up?

  • No to the facial hair. The facial hair going on in this movie is WACK. The first time I watched Love Jones,  I  almost had to stop because Larenz Tate had that awful mustache and I’m the kind of person that needs the leading man to be attractive for me to keep going and that mustache–oh lordy lordy. It’s almost as bad as the
  • earrings. No. No. No. Piercings in the ’90s were something else entirely. Oh Larenz. That sparse hoop earring looked like a translucent bubble of snot dangling from your earlobe. Nastiness.
  • No to ’90s slang. Actually, I don’t really mind. I kind of love the fact that ‘hook up’ once actually meant ‘meet up ‘.
  • No to the pretension. Let’s be honest, Love Jones is maaaaaaad pretentious. Like when Darius comes into the record store and puts on a record and Nina goes, “Charlie Parker, I’ve never heard this particular–””Shhh.” Darius interrupts her, closing his eyes and tapping his ear with his forefinger. He scrunches up his eyebrows to show he’s listening to the music. “It’s kinda sad,” Nina says a few minutes later and Tate, in the tone of an actor who has no idea what he is talking about, says, “Melancholy maybe, but not sad. There’s a difference, I think.” Are they for real? Yes, unfortunately, that was a serious exchange because these people here are educated, erudite black folk. They be mad smart, dropping George Bernard Shaw, listening to Miles Davis. Get with it.
  • Suspension of disbelief as pertains to income and career. Darius writes for Newcity. Newcity! I didn’t even know that alt-weekly had black staff writers. And why does he write on a type writer? As for Nina, she’s making some nice change for a freelance photographer.  Sure, she’s housesitting, but damn what a house! Who’s her friend?
  • You already know how I feel about spoken word. Nina’s poem was dumb the first time, but boy was it even dumber the second time around. ‘Brother to the night’ just isn’t as good the 15th time around (yes, I watched that clip compulsively for a couple of months.)

Now for the yeses.

  • chemistry. the chemistry between Nia Long and Larenz Tate still translates after all these years. They are electric together, natural and sexy. Larenz Tate doesn’t really do it for me offscreen or onscreen as any other character but Darius Lovehall, and boy, is he HOT here. The rapport between Darius’s group of friends is also fantastic; they’re so at ease with each other you totally buy into all the stupid, pretentious things they say.
  • realistic characters. Love Jones has a remarkable lack of romantic drama archetypes. Both characters are equally responsible for their falling out. The hookup, casual sex culture they espouse is right on the money, and as the viewer, you can spend a good chunk of the movie thinking about how stupid they both are. All they had to do was–anyway it doesn’t matter.
  • romance. Back in the ’90s we didn’t think it was possible, but it turns out that there are romantic movies that actually have no romance in them. I give you every Katherine Heigl movie as a starting point. But Love Jones is really romantic.  Darius is a gentleman. In the old-fashioned- potentially- problematic- but I don’t care sort of way. He cooks Nina breakfast. He makes sure she gets home safe after a fight. He runs through Union Station–knocking down a man in his fervor, plus he dedicates his book to the chick.
  • cool. Love Jones is cool. You know what I mean. From the spoken word joints (even though I hate spoken word, I can appreciate what it does for the ambiance of a film) to the lovely turns of phrases –”goodbye, black people” Love Jones presents a side of African-American life that I have never really seen but want oh so desperately to be a part of. (Not that I don’t believe these people don’t exist, I just haven’t yet the pleasure of meeting them.) The movie drips with cool–Sheila is especially cool.  She’s got that expressive face, those awesome braids and a knowing smile–I spent most of the movie wishing I was her and wondering where her man was.
  • soundtrack. the only way Love Jones could be this cool was through the help of a sultry soundtrack– from the opening intonations of Dionne Ferris’s ‘Hopeless’ to Lauryn Hill’s ‘Sweetest Thing.’ –this here is some fantastic, baby-making music. And don’t get me started on ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ as played by John Coltrane; quite possibly the sexiest slow jam ever. Ever.

*I exaggerate of course. Like, 99.9%

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4 Comments on “A second look at ‘Love Jones’”

  1. Nas says:

    A few years back I was watching the film, with a lady friend. I wanted her to see my favorite movie. Afterwards she made a comment that every woman who had a relationship in the film shared one common feature, they had permed straight hair. While all the other women with curly hair or braids, never had a man and were more side kick characters like the typical ‘Black best friends’ that you see in a lot of white television show and sit-coms. She argued that the films is reinforcing the idea, that in order for women to ‘get a man’ they better have the ‘right kind’ of hair. Being an black male, I wasn’t aware of this aspect until she pointed it out. What is your take on her analysis of the film?

    • tometome says:

      That’s quite an interesting hypothesis. But I don’t think Ted Witcher (who wrote and directed the movie) was insinuating that only black women with ‘good’ hair get men. What Nia Long’s straight hair represents is the reality of leading black actresses. They tend to have weaves and/or relaxers. They assume, rightly or wrongly, that this is the only way they can get regular roles. (Who knows? Maybe they’re right.) So it’s not so much that women with curly hair or braids are relegated to the ‘black best friend’ roles solely because of their hairstyles, it’s because if you want to cast a well-known actress is a leading role, chances are she’s worn her hair straight, so she can get those mainstream (read: white) roles.

      • Jamie says:

        Maybe that is the way that the actresses wanted to wear their hair. Maybe he wanted Sheila to wear braids because she was supposed to be more conscience. I think sometimes we look too deep into things.

  2. Jamie says:

    I think the fact that you are as young as you are has caused your impression of the film to be what it is. The language that they used was not slang during that period. It is just what was cool within their particular group because they were supposed to be educated, artsy, pro African American black people. Listen to Snoop Dogg Doggy Style and you will get the gist of slang during that time period. The earrings yea they have to go. I agree. The typewriter goes along with the theme of the types of persons they were. Classic, vintage and educated. He may have thought it was authentic to type on the typewriter. No Nia longs poem was supposed to be one that was not as great as his poem as it was not supposed to be her forte.


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