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Starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long
Written and Directed by Theodore Witcher

Cranky has previously written that he is pretty much a Scrooge when it comes to romance-themed movies. Most seem, to me, to be forced, or unrealistic; the point of many of 'em seem to be "how fast can we get the actors naked?" But I love finding the exception.

I saw love jones a month ago, at the end of a long week watching abhorrent efforts of first time writer/directors. With it's slang title, and all African-American cast, I feared a fast fall into stereotype street rap confusion was about to hit this paleface between the eyes. But my fears were unfounded. love jones hits the bull's-eye. It is a solid, sexy, romantic and real story of a relationship that grows and fails and restores itself before your eyes. Kind of like real life.

I have no idea who writer/director Theodore Witcher is, but love jones is an amazing piece of work. There are no stereotypes flying in your face. No gangsta rap or drive by shootings to force "reality" into the story. No, none of that. Young people struggle with their careers; struggle with meeting the opposite sex; the awkward first approaches and first dates.

At the center of the story is Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate), who struggles as a writer/poet, and frequently reads his progressed works at The Sanctuary, a coffeehouse cum bar cum open stage in Chicago. It has sort of a beatnik feel. On one particular night, Darius sees Nina (Nia Long) and, unlike any Lothario you may have seen, spills his drink all over her. Later that evening, he improvises a poem and dedicates it to her. She shoots him down, and proves herself his intellectual equal if not superior.

Were it not for a second, chance meeting that would have been the end of it. But that meeting occurs, and Darius works hard to get Nina's background: Where does she live? What's her number? Is she seeing anyone? Is she interested? Nina makes him work hard for that first date, and the sparks do fly.

The next day, both of them tell their friends that it was a good date, but there was no "love thing." Friendship builds, the physical stuff continues. Old loves return, old friends get in the way. Communications break down and the entire relationship ebbs and flows in a totally natural course of events.

love jones is not just about these two. There is a full set of well-characterized friends that have their own love troubles, and offer commentary on how Darius and/or Nina should behave to see if their situation really has developed a "love thing."

love jones fires on all cylinders. The performances are not forced. The jazz tinged score gives the entire movie a lush feel. Witcher's cinematic eye shows an understanding of the medium far beyond most first timers. Consider this an unabashed rave from an admitted Bah! Humbug! kind of guy.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to love jones, he would have paid...


...and that rating only goes to flicks I would want to see twice. love jones is terrific.

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