Something New isn’t new at all. In fact, it follows the same tried and true formula for most romantic comedies.
What’s different is the fact that the lead characters are a White landscaper, and a Black accountant.
Directed by video director Sanaa Hamri, and written by Kriss Turner (Co-Executive Producer and Writer for some episodes on Everybody Hates Chris), the film is about Kenya Denise McQueen (Sanaa Lathan), a hard working career woman who is up for partner in her accounting firm.
She has it all: a great job, friends and family who love her, top-notch education (Stanford and Wharton), etc However, Kenya lacks the one thing she craves and doesn’t have: An equally successful Black man on her arm. It’s been two years since her last relationship (A man named Rashid Muhammad, who is basically referenced in a conversation over drinks at a bar, and a phone message at Kenya’s house), and Kenya is quite guarded and wary of love.
She is single, lives in Los Angeles and bought her first house. Kenya is a woman who wants a social life, but never has time to have one. But, she does have an endless (!!!) mental checklist of what she’s looking for when she meets Mr. Right.
After spending Valentine’s Day with her girlfriends Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Nedra (Taraji P. Henson), and Suzette (Golden Brooks), Kenya agrees that she needs to “let go, let flow” and be more open to getting out there and dating.
Reluctantly, Kenya goes on a blind date courtesy of her coworker Leah (Katherine Towne), a soon to be married Jewish woman whose well-meaning, but meddlesome ways irk Kenya. Leah sets her up with Brian, who is clearly everything Kenya wants: tall, handsome, perfect, and an architect. So, Kenya agrees to meet him at a Starbucks in Crenshaw (!!!!) one day.
And, Kenya does meet Brian (Simon Baker-Denny)...a White (!!!!), landscape architect who happens to work for Leah’s family. Shocked and flustered, Kenya is NOT feeling Brian and cuts him off. But, she runs into him at Leah’s pre-wedding party. Not deterred by Kenya’s rudeness, he offers to help landscape her backyard. Grudgingly, she agrees.
Kenya’s coldness and reservations are eventually worn down by Brian’s charm and free-spiritedness and a romance develops.
Something New is “new”, because the story is told from the perspective of an intelligent and hard working Black woman. Clearly, this rarely happens in Hollywood since you can count the number of Black actresses who can carry a film on one hand.
Of course, you would expect this point of view since it was written, directed, and produced by Black women.
Kriss Turner’s script does discuss the kinds of pressures facing Black women when considering a partner, be he Black or otherwise. It is a romantic comedy, and it is light on the heavy subject matter. But, it is well written and works most of the film.
Unfortunately, the film falls flat in a few areas. Questions that came up while viewing this film in theaters and on DVD: Why would Brian be attracted to Kenya? Why would Kenya be so willing and so quick to fall in love with his man? Who is Brian?
Clearly, this is a movie and these questions may never be answered. But, after viewing this film on DVD, I was expecting a little more discussion around the issue of interracial relationships. The last film to go there was Zebrahead, a classic 1991 romantic drama starring N’bushe Wright (Where is she?), and Michael Rappaport as high school students who fall in love at a Detroit high school.
Though not as profound and thought provoking as Zebrahead, Something New is a light, superficial romantic comedy that does bring up some interesting questions about race, class, and dating. It just doesn’t go further when exploring these intriguing questions.
The DVD offers a couple of featurettes. The soundtrack, done by Prince collaborators Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (producers who have worked with Me’shell Ndegeocello, have composed for TV Shows Crossing Jordan and the upcoming Heroes: Origins episodes, etc.) is a powerful mix of hip hop, slow jams, and light yet complex small piano/string arrangements that add to the light, yet slightly complex mood of the film.
GRADE: B+ (for the performances)/B+(the writing)/B+(for the musical soundtrack and score)