Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them go.  The new release from Focus Features, ‘Something New’ falls squarely in the category for me.  We often, as human beings, enter into situations with preconceived notions.  This should be good, he’s gonna be stupid, this is gonna suck, this should be tasty… and sometimes our notions are confirmed and sometimes we are either surprised or disappointed.  The truth is, we should never go into any situation with preconceived notions.  We should let life develop and accept these situations organically.  I entered ‘Something New’ fairly positive that I wouldn’t like it.  An interracial romantic comedy.  Great.  It’s either going to be insulting, silly, or so safe in it’s approach as not to offend anyone but entertain no one.  Imagine my surprise as found myself enjoying this movie.  A lot.


The films centers around Kenya McQueen played by the always fetching Sanaa Lathan, who I’ll always fondly remember as Wesley Snipes super hot mom in Blade.  Kenya is successful, paid, beautiful, very conservative and alone.  Not lonely though, as she could get a man if she so chose.  Trust me on this one.  She’s simply focusing on her career, though her meddling, friends, mother and brother believe that it’s nigh time she finds someone.  Thus an acquaintance sets her up on a blind date with this ‘great guy’ Bryan, played by Simon Baker of ‘The Guardian’ TV show fame, who they neglected to tell her is white.  This is a situation she obviously is very uncomfortable with, so she awkwardly excuses herself from their date.  But Simon does have other skills as he is the owner of a small landscaping company, which leads to Kenya to hiring him to overhaul the backyard of her newly purchased home.  There is an obvious attraction and chemistry between the two, but Kenya is initially resistant.  Over a dinner, Bryan boldly asks Kenya why she doesn’t do white guys.  Kenya responds that she simply dates Black men.  Bryan calls her prejudiced; Kenya balks and calls it a preference.  Bryan responds that she then prefers to be prejudiced. 

One thing obviously leads to another, they go out on a hiking date, it rains they kiss.  Mental note:  Should I ever direct a film and it has to rain on my actress.  Make sure she wears white.  Preferably with no bra.  It is apparently the standard.  I find no issue with that.


At its core, ‘Something New’ is hardly anything new.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girls back.  It’s been done that way long before we got here, it’ll be done that way long after we’re gone.  It’s the journey to those long tested plot points that will either save it or lose it for us.  And for the most part, the journey in ‘Something New’ is very enjoyable and genuinely funny.  When Bryan and Kenya have an argument in a grocery store over her struggles to succeed as Black woman in white male dominated field, and Bryan’s resistance to hear her story yet again, it just rings with truth from both sides.  But to the converse, when Bryan makes a less than flattering comment about Kenya’s weave and her subsequent blowup, any self-respecting man knows when it comes to a woman’s hair the ONLY acceptable comment is ‘that looks nice honey’.  Where’s as Kenya’s relationship is with Bryan is hot and steamy, as they do spend an awful lot of time in the sack, her subsequent relationship Blair Underwood’s corporate attorney is dull and distant.  This is despite the fact that his character represents the IBM (Ideal Black Man) that her friends, family and Kenya herself have been waiting for. 

Most commendable though as the lead is the performance of Sanaa Lathan.  Since she is virtually in every scene, the movie ultimately succeeds or fails based on her performance and she is more than up to the challenge.  The uneasiness that she is able to convey when out with Bryan in social events is articulately displayed.  The anger she feels at his inability to relate to her struggles and the passion they have when they are together are also expertly crafted. 


As the movie film winds down to its predictable climax it becomes pretty much what movies of this ilk are destined to become.  Nothing new there, but in-between we the audience are given a glimpse of a side of a culture that Hollywood rarely presents.   That in itself is quite refreshing and ‘Something New’ will be well worth your time.


Bud's Second: Something New is a good movie, well done and well acted. It is a movie about a woman and a relationship, where racial difference is an element in the relationship. This is a stark contrast to most movies of this type, where the story is about race, with an inter-racial relationship as one element. This movie is not necessarily trying to hit you over the head with some social commentary about race. It is a movie about characters, not about race; the characters are people who are genuine and interesting, not stereotypical figures who are vehicles for racial friction. This is a subtle point, but the difference helps the movie to play in a much more entertaining way, and really helps to draw the audience to the characters.  

Racial issues aside, have you ever noticed how much fun it is to watch people in uncomfortable situations, fun to watch them squirm, as long as they have the grace to get out of it. In his commentary above, Chris was right to praise the performance of Sanaa Lathan, as her portrayal was praise-worthy. There was very little that felt "contrived" about her portrayal of this character, which is the stumbling point that kills so many romantic comedies. But also praise-worthy were the roles of all of the secondary characters (most notably including Kenya's parents and friends), who were all portrayals of real, credible people, and all of whose characters contributed to the story.

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