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Friday Film Review: Brown Sugar

Brown Sugar (2002)
Genre: Romance/Comedy/Drama
Grade: B

Since I’ve started doing these Friday Film Reviews, I’ve been trying to expand my film horizons. Netflix has helped since it makes it relatively easy to try new-to-me films and actors and “Brown Sugar” is a case in point. I’d seen Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs in other films (some of which will be featured in coming reviews) but together in this film, they’re magic.

“Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) trace their friendship and the launch of their careers to a single childhood instant: the day they discovered hip-hop on a New York street corner. Now, 15 years later, both have successful music industry careers. As Sidney, a revered music critic, and Dre, a successful but unfulfilled music executive, lay down tracks toward their futures, something keeps them coming back to that moment on the street corner.”

You don’t have to love, or even like, hip-hop music to appreciate this film. However if you do enjoy it, the soundtrack should do wonders for you. Also look for cameo appearances by several hip-hop stars. The characters’ love of the music serves as the backbone of the film and the motivation for many of their actions so it discussed often – almost like the love for a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Sanaa Lathan is an actress who I think is fabulous and one who throws herself into her roles. Here she stars with Taye Diggs who is reason enough to spend time watching the film. Now, now, I know I’ve mentioned how shallow I am about handsome men before. Anyway, they make it easy to believe the long relationship their characters have had and why everyone around them knows that they’re The Ones for each other – even if they stubbornly refuse to see it themselves. They laugh together, tease each other and confide their deepest hopes and wishes to each other in a way that shows they won’t just be lovers but also best friends.

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But they have a long road to travel before their final hookup and it’s nice to see realistic, believable characters in a romantic movie that avoids silly setups and outlandish plot twists. The significant others in their lives, Dre’s wife Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) and Sid’s fiance Kelby (Boris Kodjoe), don’t turn into shrews or asshats to further the plot and bring the main characters together. Instead, they are nice people who simply aren’t right for HEAs with Dre and Sid.

Another of my favorite actors, Queen Latifah plays Sid’s cousin Francine and is given some great scenes such as when she helps Sid unpack and finds Sid’s massager from Brookstone and also when she loudly urges Sid to protest during Dre’s wedding, much to Sid’s embarrassment. Scene stealing Mos Def is a young hip-hop artist Dre is hot to sign to his new record label and I couldn’t help but watch him every time he was on screen. He and Queen Latifah also have a sort-of secondary romance going on which I would love to have seen expanded.

While the ending is formulaic, it’s still satisfying and I laughed to see the note Dre holds up when he asks Sid to go out with him when she’s in the middle of a radio interview. “Brown Sugar” has adult characters acting like adults. They might not always be perfect and they do make mistakes but I never groaned with disbelief at their actions and I did feel the emotions they were trying to convey. The film has an average rating at Netflix and IMDB but don’t let that dissuade you from trying it. It’s an understated charmer which exceeded my expectations as I hope it will yours.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

15 Comments

  1. Leslie
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 08:49:26

    I agree – this is a good movie about nice people, written for grown-ups. It is the kind of movie everyone says they wish there were more of, but that frequently falls by the wayside. It is a snuggle-down in the comforter b/c it is still darn cold outside and be ready to be entertained movie that holds up to repeated (so far, 3) watching.

  2. Kati
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 08:52:29

    I just re-watched this movie, as it’s in Cinemax’s On Demand rotation right now. I think that Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan have really nice chemistry. I enjoy her quite a bit as an actress, although she does constantly look unhappy.

    And yes, Taye Diggs is reason enough to watch this really enjoyable movie.

  3. Jayne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:02:52

    @Leslie: Oh, yes, “snuggle down in the comforter” is a great description of it.

  4. Jayne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:05:16

    @Kati:

    I enjoy her quite a bit as an actress, although she does constantly look unhappy.

    Wow, thinking back, she does look unhappy a lot. Or is it frustrated?

    And yes, Taye Diggs is reason enough to watch this really enjoyable movie.

    Yum!

  5. Kristen
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 09:18:27

    I liked this movie too. Coming into it, I was a little weary because this type of movie can go cliche in a hurry, but there was a surprising depth and warmth to it.

    Nice review.

  6. Gwyneth Bolton
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:27:57

    This is one of my favorite movies. It ties with Love Jones and Love and Basketball for me.

  7. Jayne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:31:36

    @Kristen: I think a lot of “romance” or “rom-com” movies can go sour quickly. I’m finding that in many cases, the deciding factor in whether or not I enjoy them is can they triumph over the cliches that so many have.

  8. Jayne
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 10:33:08

    @Gwyneth Bolton: I’ve been meaning to watch Love Jones ever since Maili did a review of it a few years ago. Love and Basketball is another Sanaa Lathan movie I’ve liked. Watch for a review of it to come.

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  10. Jessica
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 12:50:14

    I love this movie. Caught it for the first time on cable a few years ago and bought the DVD.

    You covered most of what I like so much, especially the adults acting like adults thing. Plus, neither of the main characters does something horrible.

    I’m so tired of rom-coms where one of them is cheating or lying or pretending to be someone else etc. Then the other person just falls in love with them anyway and the audience is supposed to consider that a good thing? Ugh.

    Rant over. Brown Sugar is a good movie. Plus, pretty pretty people.

  11. jayhjay
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 13:10:32

    Sigh, Taye Diggs

  12. sula
    Feb 11, 2011 @ 17:05:27

    mm, taye diggs! did i ever mention that he resembles my DH? only my DH is even cuter. :)

    this is one to add to the netflix queue. thanks for the review!

  13. Evangeline Holland
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 17:02:49

    Such a great movie. But now The Best Man must be one of your next reviews! *g*

  14. Little Red
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 18:01:39

    Hey, let’s not forget Boris Kodjoe! He’s also reason enough to watch a movie or television show as well.

  15. Jayne
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 18:38:03

    @Little Red: Yes, definitley! He’s on my list of actors to watch for now.

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