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Loving Jezebel

Starring Hill Harper, Andre B. Blake, Elisa Donovan, Larry Gilliard Jr., Laurel Holloman, Sandrine Holt, David Moscow, Nicole Ari Parker, Phylicia Rashad
Written and Directed by Kwyn Bader

IN SHORT: An almost completely adorable comedy of romantic errors and dumb choices. [Rated R for language and sexuality. 85 minutes]

We must admit, when we first read the press notes for Loving Jezebel, we were in stitches from the description. We also doubted that a first time director could pull it off. We were almost wrong, but impressed with the effort. Writer/Director Kwyn Bader has the writing chops down. His technical directing skills fail him.

Jezebel: a woman who cheats on her man. Dufus: Theodorus Melville (Hill Harper), who keeps falling in love with 'em, even when he knows they've got commitments elsewhere. The problem dates all the way back to kindergarten, when first heartbuster Nikki Noodleman (Diandra Newlin) decided she would kiss every other boy in class, leaving the five year old Theo (Justin Pierre Edmund) bereft. In high school, Theo beds Nina Clarise (Heather Gottlieb), who is on the rebound from his best friend Steven. In college, he chases after the girls like a puppy after a bone, falling madly for Frances (Nicole Ari Parker) who not only will come to play a major role in his life, she's also -- all together now -- has a boyfriend that Theo doesn't know about.

We should point out that at no time in Bader's film debut does anybody call the lead "Theo". Phylicia Rashad plays his mother, Alice, and we couldn't resist the nod to her days as Mother Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Bader allows Theodorus to feast upon a virtual smorgasbord of women, each more beautiful than the last. That he is, at best, ignorant and at worst, disingenuous as to the other commitments of his various ladies -- and most of this story takes place during college or directly after, in the period when commitment is not necessarily a ten letter word -- makes most of Loving Jezebel a giggle and a half.

My ex would have found Harper to be adorable. That he fairly radiates personality helps a lot as his character slowly rises to the level of self-awareness that informs him when he is no longer a passive player in the hunt for the unavailable -- this after the return of Frances. The last three ladies to cross his path run the gamut from roll over and die sexy Mona (Sandrine Holt) to the unattainable June (Lysa Aya Trenier) and the all-American Samantha (Laurel Holloman). Samantha's husband Gabe (David Moscow) thanks Theodorus for "being a good friend" to his wife. No, we're not going to redefine "dufus," but explaining that choice would reveal what happens in the last act, and we don't do that.

We will do something we rarely do, and comment on the production values. Having noted that this is Bader's freshman flick, his grasp of basic production values starts to fall apart towards the end. He shoots without enough daylight. His climactic scene is clumsily edited, not building in proper intensity and there are some visual continuity errors that pop up again and again in the editing. The sound recording, and this comes from an ex-sound guy, is brilliant, far better than most indieflicks I sit through, with ADR and live sound match almost perfectly. Larry Scharp and Fred Edwards get the screen credit, and acknowledgment here.

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


just above pay per view level, for a movie that looks as if it was shot for teevee, though we wouldn't be disappointed if we lugged a date (the $5 level).

Oh yes, one last thing. The lead character is an African-American son of a mixed marriage (John Doman plays the dad). We didn't mention it 'cuz we wanted to make the point that it's an irrelevant point. Regardless of how you see it, two thirds plus of a very enjoyable movie is still a good deal and demographic marketing -- the film is a co-production of the Starz! and the BET networks' film arms -- be damned.

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