Just Wright

Call it a backlash against the “Sex & The City” era or simply an inability to write intelligent characters based on women of a certain age (ironically something the series’ film sequel is guilty of) but the strong single woman is taking a pummeling. Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston rule the airwaves and movie theatres with women who despite their wonderful lives are so desperate not to be alone it’s nothing short of disgusting.

Which is why Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah) is a refreshing woman to know. A well-educated physical therapist besides being both emotionally and financially secure, her inability to get a man doesn’t seem to be the scarlet letter it appears to be these days. Meeting basketball pro Scott McKnight (Common) by chance, Leslie fulfills her god-sister Morgan’s (Paula Patton) dream of marrying a famous athlete by introducing the two. However life never runs smoothly and an injury calls Morgan’s commitment into question along with forcing Leslie to help Scott get himself back on the court.

If everything sounds slightly clichéd, that’s because it is. A conventional romantic comedy in the old sense, where both parties are on a relatively equal footing, “Just Wright” proves why the formula worked to begin with. there is a warmth and style to it all, even in it’s conventions. It understands itself, never trying too hard to be something more than the best diversion it can be.

Latifah is a strong woman to contend with on-screen, radiating the sort of self-confidence and warmth that lends her an almost immediate likable quality. We know she’ll fall for Common’s McKnight character but it will be in her own time. Both leads are far from being gifted in their acting ability but they are genuine and honest in what they do, performing without any pretense.

Others will surely disagree with me, praising the time given to humanizing everyone on screen but when it comes to Morgan, it could be better spent elsewhere. Here is a woman prepared to lie, cheat, even alter her personality simply to get her man. Patton gave a remarkable performance in “Precious” but when viewed next to this, it proves that she can be beautiful and give wonderful wide eyed shots at the camera with no nuance in between.

Structurally the character is a necessary evil, that such a malignant and transparent women is tolerated for so long by all damages their credibility somewhat. Lottie in “The Princess & The Frog” serves a similar purpose in many ways yet does so with such infectious personality she becomes a character worthy of admiration, a feat Morgan can never match with such heavy, purposive writing and characterization behind her.

Ironically with a few less well meaning changes to the formula, this could have been something altogether superlative. Credit must be given for the attempt to humanize everyone involved yet this cannot override entirely the damage done.

  1. August 22nd, 2010

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